By Courtney Warren
A recent discovery I’ve made is that I will never be able to sit in the stands again.
Being on the sidelines is a totally different world than being in the stands. Any coach’s wife will tell you that the stands is the last place you want to be. Being forced to listen to the grievances of little Johnny’s mom and hearing little Billy’s dad explain why the coach should be playing his kid is not exactly my favorite way to spend a Friday evening.
However, this year, I began standing on the sidelines of every home football game to take photos for this newspaper as well as the yearbook (which will be incredible this year - be sure you’ve ordered one!). I was nervous at first, because I knew the world I was stepping into before I ever walked onto the field.
Those boys are different when they are suited up. It’s wartime. I knew they probably were not going to talk to me, and I absolutely would not be speaking to them - because the last thing I wanted to be was a distraction. However, that is not what happened and definitely not what happened during the state championship.
Over this season, I have been able to listen to the coaches and players scream and holler during difficult games, cheer during cupcake games, and battle fiercely when the score was too close for comfort.
In the classroom, I have the opportunity to connect with many of them; but, on the football field, I get to see where their hearts truly are. How are they going to react to having a coach yell at them? How are they going to respond when another player gets in their face? How will their teammates help in a tense situation?
Nothing prepared me for when Benton Academy played CA this year. I watched as my favorite person in the world coached against the boys I spend each day with. I listened as the smack talk progressed, inevitable and to be expected, and I even cried a bit as I was faced with cheering for both sides of the ball. My team won either way, but my team also lost either way.
On those sidelines, I wasn’t invisible. Those sweet boys were respectful, encouraging in a tough situation for their teacher, and, even though the smack talk never let up, I was fist-bumped more times that night than I’ve ever been fist-bumped in my life (and that’s saying something coming from a middle school teacher). They showed their hearts—and their hearts are good.
When we made it to state, I knew without a shadow of a doubt I would not be sitting in those stands. I secured a sideline pass immediately and arrived an hour beforehand to watch pregame, test my new camera, and tell a few of the boys how proud I was they’d made it to the championship game.
I loved listening to these boys and their coaches as they played in what many believed was an impossible game.
Most teams would have given excuses, quit after the score made it clear they were defeated, and hung their heads or run up as many personal fouls as possible. Not these boys.
It was another night of fist bumps. It was another night of “that’s my brother” and “yes, brother, come on.”
I cheered and hollered beside my favorite ball boys. I watched tears run down the cheeks of seniors as some walked off of the field for the last time, but what I got to hear - the love and the brotherhood between the boys that I get to teach every day - was such a blessing.
If that means I have to work in news until the end of my life just to be on the field rather than holding a spirit sign, then hand me a camera.