They say football’s a team sport. That’s truer than most people realize, as we shall see.

In Chickasaw County, high school football gets under way in earnest as Houston and Okolona open their seasons this Friday, Sept. 4. Both non-conference games begin at 7 p.m.

The Houston Hilltoppers will host New Hope, meanwhile, Okolona’s Chieftains host Thrasher.

Football is a team sport, but the team is a lot bigger than the 22 youngsters on the field.

Both schools have quality folks at the coaching controls. The best coaches and assistants put in countless hours. They do what they do for the love of it, not the money. They’re lucky enough to get paid for doing something they’d probably do for free.

The best coaches have a God-given gift. With their jobs riding on the outcome, they can motivate young men to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do, instead of things they’d much prefer to do.

Example: The best coaches motivate youngsters to run gassers in 90 degree heat until they throw up, and absorb those bone-rattling slobberknocker hits in “hole” drills until they don’t have enough undamaged hide to make a lampshade.

And they get the youngsters to endure the PTA – Pain, Torture and Agony – for free.

Left to their own devices, of course, most youngsters would likely prefer to cruise town in an air conditioned truck, cold drink in hand, sweetie snugged up by their side.

Good coaches find a way to get youngsters to give up the good life for the PTA.

Football games are more than just two teams competing. There are shows within shows under the Friday night lights.

The cheerleaders perform, and so do the bands. Both those activities take hard work and dedication. Both require instructors who, like the coaches, have jobs that depend on motivating youngsters to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.

Other people – many of whom are the parents of the aforementioned young people – do the countless jobs necessary to make the games happen.

Someone’s got to staff the concession stands, sell the tickets or programs, keep up with the money, drive the buses hauling the team and band and cheerleaders to and from distant games, design the halftime band programs, plan the cheer routines, stripe the field, mow, turn the stadium lights on and off, clean up, lock up.

And do it all season.

Next time you see one of those “behind the scenes” folks, thank them.

They’re the “off the field” team members whose hard work helped put the football team, cheerleaders and band on the field.

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