THE SPECTATOR, with Tryve Brackin
POP'S GOT FOOTBALL ... Shelby Willis is going. Pop is not. It will be extra toil and trouble, starting Monday, for Erik Willis as well as for his peers in Iberville Parish’s five high schools. Preseason football practice begins next week.
Shelby will be heading with her IPRD All-Star teammates to Pennsylvania late next week for the Babe Ruth 12 and Under Softball World Series. But dad cannot go. It is preseason gridiron camp time. I can sympathize as a sports editor/writer.
I got to see my daughter perform on the Episcopal High dance team for her first time as a freshman. The only reason I got to do so was Erik Willis’ St. John High football team that year had its first regular season playing date on the road in Baton Rouge at EHS.
The only other time I got to see my daughter dance was her very last time as a senior on the tenth playing date. The only reason I got to do so was two-fold: All our final week parish grid games were meaningless as far as state playoff berths and Joyce Hebert understood how important it was for me to see her dance.
Willis and yours truly are not the only coaches or sports writers who have sacrificed time with our children down through the years to benefit your kids as well as to make money doing so. All of us sacrifice something of our lives to be a part, no matter how small, of your children’s lives. It has been our choices, our decisions, as far as what we want to do to earn a buck or two, so this is not sour grapes. But, parents and fans, please remember the next time, up in the stands or at home reading the POST or the area daily, when the criticism is easy to roll off your tongue, we are there for your children not just for a living, but because we feel like we are contributing and helping your children along in life.
Personally, I have lost plenty enough segments of my daughter’s life (and still do because she lives so far away), to know how hard it was for Erik to tell Dr. Gerard Falgoust and me at the softball regional tournament two weeks ago that he could not make the trip to Pennsylvania to see Shelby play ball. “I’ve got football,” he said, simply, and with a shrug of his shoulders.
And, while I am preaching a bit, I also think Erik would agree with me, that the very worst kind of parent is the one who misses their children’s ball games for every other reason, but work.
I remember going to a local prep game at the school for the deaf to see and photograph East Iberville High’s gridiron team a few years back. Marshall Lawson, whom I greatly admire, was the EI head coach that season. On the Tiger sidelines there were players, coaches, cheerleaders, managers, and two individuals who were either parents or fans. I pulled over Marshall and asked him why so few fans when LSD was only a five-mile trip up Nicholson Drive from St. Gabriel.
His reply: “Oh, they drove a few miles further down the road to gamble on the boats in Baton Rouge. Rather win some money that support their children.”
Marshall was bitter sounding when he spoke. I patted him on the back and we both looked out to the field as the teams warmed up and said no more. They were gambling and we were sitting with their kids.
That was a few years back. EI fans are very supportive these days. They are some of the most supportive in the parish. They tailgate and enjoy their home games as an event and travel to away games within reason. Overall, I have noticed attendance going up a bit over the last couple of years at parish home games. More parents are going to watch. But it always could be better.
Go support your children’s extracurricular activities. It will do both child and parent a world of good.
PREP FOOTBALL practices begin Monday at the parish high schools. Some teams are going two-a-days, others either in long morning or evening sessions. The first few days of practice will be in helmet, jersey and gym shorts. Contact drills will begin in time to prepare for preseason scrimmages, set for Thursday, August 21 or Friday, August 22. Jamborees will be held August 28-29, Thursday or Friday. The first game of the regular season will be held Thursday or Friday, August 4 or 5.
Blake Kling takes the reigns of the Plaquemine High grid team for the second season in a row, while Ferrante Dominique guides the White Castle High Bulldogs for his third time around, which makes him the veteran coach in the parish. Ron Allen begins his second season as the head coach at North Iberville High, ranking him with Kling in parish head job experience. New first-year mentors are Jim Payton at East Iberville High and Tut Musemeche at the parish’s private school, St. John High. The time spent at the local schools has nothing to do with the vast wealth of coaching experience this group provides the local parish. These fellas have been around and know what to do to make football a great experience for the kids.
Also beginning the final week of August will be preseason, jamboree volleyball competition. The regular season begins for most of the schools the first week of September.
PS SPORTS is in the process of putting together the annual Preseason Football Section. We will do brief insights into each local team, have photos and articles on state college, NCAA, NFL football, LSU and the N.O. Saints. This is a keepsake. If you would like to purchase a display ad in the section, call either Brandy or Crystal at 687-3288.