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Aug. 9, 2022

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Area high school football coaches adjust to having free time this fall

From family dinners, to trips, to golf outings, coaches find new activities

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
4 Photos
Camas head coach Jon Eagle (Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian)
Camas head coach Jon Eagle (Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

John Lambert is loading up his DVR.

Rick Steele has been hitting the road.

Jon Eagle has sampled some fine wines.

And Adam Mathieson has learned about some longstanding family traditions that until this fall hadn’t included him.

“What I’ve learned is that in my family, Friday night in the fall is homemade pizza night,” said Mathieson, who has been Mountain View’s football coach and athletic director since 2008. “That’s something for the last 20 years, I was not aware of.”

But that is one positive of the postponed fall season for area high school football coaches — getting to spend more time with their families.

Steele, who has been Hockinson’s football coach every year except one since 2004, said once the decision was made to push the football season to the spring, he and his wife made plans to take an RV trip to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

“It’s been different,” Steele said of this fall without football. “But it was very fun going on the RV trip. My wife and I have talked that when I do stop coaching football that the fall is a really nice time of year to travel. So it was great to go somewhere in our RV in September and see what it was like. And it was fantastic.”

Eagle, Camas’ coach since 2007, went wine tasting with his wife last Sunday. That’s something new in the fall for someone who has been coaching high school football since getting his start at Evergreen in 1987.

“For a lot of football coaches, Sunday is a work day,” Eagle said. “So that’s been nice. I’ve got two daughters who live in San Diego, so we’re going to visit them on a weekend soon. And my son is in grad school in Spokane, so we’re going to drive up this weekend. We’re doing things that I wouldn’t get the chance normally because I’d be so locked into football right now.”

But don’t think coaches still aren’t finding time for football.

“It’s been fun to watch football like I haven’t since I was a kid,” said Lambert, La Center’s head coach since 1999. “As a kid, I had the TV on football all weekend. But now that I’m a little busier during the football season, normally I catch a game here or there. Now I’m recording them all. … I can just watch them and have fun, without having to worry about the opponent next week.”

Lambert and Steele, who have known each other for 36 years, also get together with former Woodland coach Mark Greenleaf to go golfing at least once a week.

“It’s fun to golf with football coaches because we golf, but all we do is talk football,” Steele said. “And all of us are terrible golfers, and I mean terrible. So we stick mainly to the par-3s, those types of courses, so we don’t hurt anybody.”

The coaches are waiting for the chance to work with their players again. Most were hoping that might come next week, during the WIAA’s open coaching period. But recent rises in COVID-19 cases have put those hopes on hold.

“I’m on this (text) thread with coaches around the state, and everyone is like ‘Is anybody doing anything?’ ‘What does it look like on (Sept. 28)?’ ” Lambert said. “And everyone says ‘My district isn’t letting us do anything.’ So we’re just waiting and seeing.”

Steele said he had plans to hand out equipment to his players last Wednesday. He stuck with those plans even when workouts were put on hold.

“Part of it for me was psychological,” Steele said. “I wanted them to start thinking about football. I’m going to hand them a thick playbook, offensively and defensively, and get them to start thinking about what we were going to do. And man, I could not believe the reaction I got, from the players, from the parents, just to get gear and not even know when we’ll get to practice.”

The longer this unusually long offseason goes, the bigger playbooks have been growing, Mathieson said.

“This is not a good thing for a football coach, but I think if you polled a lot of coaches, our playbooks have tripled in size,” he said. “The more you network and the more you talk with other coaches, the more ideas you get. Like ‘That’s good. That can work, too. We need to do that.’ And then you look back and think that’s the worst offseason ever. We’ve got too much stuff now.”

The coaches have been doing their best to stay connected to their players and lift their spirits.

And the advice from these veteran coaches is simple: Just try to enjoy this very different fall season.

“You don’t get a chance as a football coach to get the sabbatical,” Mathieson said. “You don’t get that six months off. You’re always in it. … You know normally I stay in the office after a Friday night game. You play the game, and then I’ll go and I’ll sleep in the office. Get some work there, wake up Saturday and start doing it again.

“To be able to go to my daughter’s softball game on a Saturday, I wouldn’t be doing that right now. I’d be in the office breaking film down. There are some positive things about this from a family standpoint.

“But I think I speak for all coaches when I say we miss our players. We miss the adrenaline, the excitement of watching them succeed on the field, competing against somebody else. Those are the things — I don’t know if you want to say we’re addicted to it — but it’s a big part of it. So, we just hope to get back to that at some point.”

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