The news from the NFL over the past few days that two head coaches were hospitalized only underscores the pressure that goes with their business. That stress is hardly limited to the pro game, which got me to thinking about an old friend.
Cecil Flowe will coach his last football game at Parkview High School on Friday night after 21 seasons leading the Panther program. In the outside world he’s still a young man, but head coaching years aren’t the same as regular people years. The job grinds on even the most successful, which Cecil surely was, and the Parkview coach has had his share of medical issues over the years.
Football coaches by their nature are obsessive/compulsive, which leads to little sleep and often not the best dietary habits. And when those things take their toll, coaches slough off their symptoms and soldier on, being hard-nosed just like they teach their players to be. That can be good for a coach’s record but not for his body, so it’s no surprise when Flowe says that he’s “ready to slow down.”
That’s the thing about being a head coach; it’s hardly limited to coaching. There are a lot of hats to be worn at a major football school, from fundraising to taking care of the field and everything in between. It’s a lot of responsibility, so much so that I began my sportswriting career wondering why anyone wouldn’t want to be a head coach and ended it wondering why anyone would.
That was due to some perspective on my end, and no doubt Flowe also has a different perspective after more than two decades at the helm. I’ve known Cecil since before he was a head coach, since before Parkview was a state power. And like the program he built, he progressed from new kid on the block wanting to make an impression to elder statesman whose career record of 197-66 speaks for itself.
What I have always liked most about Cecil is how human he is. When he was upset you knew it, and when he was elated you knew that too. He was honest with his feelings, and I think the players picked up on that.
Early in his head coaching career, Cecil didn’t get the credit he deserved, and I think it hurt him. But he absorbed those arrows and moved on, piling up wins and respect along the way. Like all good leaders, he surrounded himself with good people, and I always respected the way he let his coaches coach. There was no doubt he had final say, but he was secure enough to let others make their voices heard.
The announcement of his retirement had us telling Cecil stories around the office. For those who know how busy he is, the talk was about how hard it is to get in touch with him for interviews. That led to me sharing the story of how I once found myself in Cecil’s truck, taking advantage of the only free time I could find with him by interviewing him on his way to mail a package.
But my favorite Cecil story comes from those early days when Parkview was still building its reputation. The playoff game was well over and the players had showered and left, leaving me in the meeting room typing my story. The only other person in the fieldhouse was Cecil, vacuuming the locker room before he called it a night.
That image always stayed with me, and I think it describes the coach well. When it comes to Parkview football, he was always there in whatever capacity was needed, making the program the best it could be.
Email Todd Cline at email@example.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.