CLINE: Coach Cline's taste of life on the sidelines

I got to experience football in a different way this past weekend. As an honorary coach for the Rivalries of Gwinnett high school football all-star game, I got a close-up view of everything from locker room speeches to play-calling to arguing with officials.

It was also a chance to spend time with the local coaches in a laid back fashion, which allowed for some fun talks and interesting listens. I learned a lot.

Like the rhythm of calling plays, the art of motivational speaking and that being on time in the coaching world means being 45 minutes early.

As a former sports writer and sports editor, my view of football has always been from the press box, where it’s easier to chart a game. Being on the sideline was a much different, and enjoyable, perspective.

Even as an honoary coach, being in the thick of things — the jubliation after a touchdown, the disappointment of a play gone bad — was exciting. I could imagine the adrenaline rush that comes each Friday night.

By the time Saturday’s game ended at Mountain View High School (full disclosure, the Maloof-Cline team lost 39-29 to the Conn-Hammock squad), I even felt a little like a coach, albeit a very cold one. With my Colter Sports-issued gear, I guess I looked the part, as one fan asked me in the parking lot if I was a coach.

“An honorary one,” I replied.

If you want to be a real one, I found, there are a couple of things you need to master:

1. Call everyone “Coach” or by their number.

People think “coach” is an esteemed moniker, but really it’s a way of coaches never having to remember anyone’s name. The same can be said of calling players by their number.

As a writer, I would never refer to any player by a number. As a coach this past weekend I found myself saying “great job 18” and “great run two-one.”

This is much tougher to do in the real world, where a) people don’t wear numbers, and b) most of us are not coaches.

Coaches can’t get past the number thing, but I’ve seen firsthand that the fact you aren’t a coach won’t stop them from addressing you as such. I’ve conducted many an interview where the winning coach commented: “Now that was a ballgame there, Coach.”

The famous John Wooden autobiography is titled “They Call Me Coach.” But if I was going to write a book about the high school football coaches in Gwinnett, the title would be: “They Call Everyone Coach.”

2. Be positive and stay on message. I was impressed by the type of speakers these guys are. Keith Maloof, the Norcross coach and head coach of our team, was just as good in front of the parents as he was the players.

The other coaches were inspirational in the locker room before the game. They accenuated the positive, with forceful styles part preacher, part motivational speaker and part politician with their ability to stay on theme.

Speaking of which, maybe some of the guys coaching this all-star game should have put their names in to run for chairman of the Board of Commissioners. If one of them got the job, I can assure you of two things: 1) People would be held accountable, and 2) The meetings would start and end on time.

My experience with the game — put on by the Gwinnett Touchdown Club and former Brookwood coach Dave Hunter — was so positive that I may invite some of the guys from my staff to be honorary editors at the paper.

They might not remember any of the reporters’ names, but I think they’d do a great job scheduling the meetings and giving pep talks. My only hesitation is at the end of the day all the quotes in the paper would be attributed to “Coach.”

E-mail Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/toddcline.