Starting a week from Monday, vacation season ends for dozens of Texomaland head football coaches and their staffs.
It seems like just yesterday that Bells was wrapping up its Class 2A softball state championship, Whitesboro was on a run to the state baseball semifinals, and the Herald Democrat was honoring the area’s best student-athletes at its fourth All-Texomaland Banquet, the biggest one yet with bigger ones still to come.
But the calendar doesn’t lie.
On Aug. 7, football practice for the 2017 season begins for all local high schools south of the Red River, with one exception.
Sherman will start one week later, on Aug. 14, by University Interscholastic League rule after participating in spring gridiron drills in May. Denison, the only other local school eligible to conduct practice in the spring, chose not to do so and will start alongside everyone else.
Last week, the Texas High School Coaches Association held its annual coaching school in Houston, where almost every football coach in the state attended.
Throughout June and July, coaches were at the fieldhouse working on playbooks or supervising summer workouts.
All the offseason activity leaves a scant several sunrises for the sideline skippers of September to swap their ballcaps and whistles for beach towels, sunscreen, or hiking boots and head for the lake, the woods, or the mountains.
The window to get away is extremely tiny, and sometimes it doesn’t allow for coaches to be able to get out of town.
Bearcats head coach J.D. Martinez would’ve had the luxury of an extra vacation week at the start of August due to his team practicing for 18 days in May. But it hasn’t happened for Martinez’s family either of his first two summers in town.
“Last year we were selling and moving,” Martinez said. “This summer we are attempting some normalcy and we just wanted to catch our breath and enjoy having a pool.”
Martinez said the only week he’s taken off this year was the week that Independence Day fell. But next year, Martinez said he plans two weeks to treat his family to a wonderful vacation.
“Our coaches on staff have had some trips that I have seen plenty of pictures (of) and we even had two get married over the summer,” Martinez said.
Martinez added that his family will slip away for one quick final weekend in the famed Hill Country village of Gruene before the pigskin starts flying in earnest.
Denison head coach Chad Rogers, meanwhile, said he and his family always go out of town the week of June 20, and have for 20 years.
“It is our anniversary and my birthday is the next day,” Rogers said. “We go to a beach spot usually with the family for a couple days. Other than that we try to go to Lake Texoma every chance we get.”
Bonham head coach Tony Johnson said he and his family usually try to get home to Kansas City, which he said they did this year for a family reunion.
“We take in a few Royals games and then visit with family and friends,” Johnson said. “This year we took our time and hit some good antique shops.”
Johnson said that when his children were younger, they always tried to take a big trip, i.e. Disney, Grand Canyon etc., but those days are long gone.
With two of their kids out of the house already, Johnson and his wife Mary went to Horseshoe Bay for an evening away to golf.
Mary, the ultimate coach’s wife according to Johnson, also went to College Station with her husband and his team when the Purple Warriors qualified for the state 7-on-7 tournament last month.
“We are looking forward to one more getaway,” Johnson said. “Nothing more than a weekend jaunt if you will.
“My wife has planned a trip for New York for Spring Break this year,” Johnson added. “Easier to plan trips when football is in the rear view.”
Oftentimes, a spouse is also a coach, which adds urgency to getting out of town. Such is the case with Tioga head coach Cody Patton, whose wife, Mindy, is the school’s championship-winning volleyball coach.
The Pattons recently packed up their nine children and traveled to Leakey to float the Frio River, with all 11 of them crammed into a two-bedroom cabin, bringing along the newest addition to the family, a three-month-old girl.
“Lots of picnics outside fast food places,” Patton said. “Life is very interesting at our house no matter if it is vacationing or staying on home or during season. With me being the head football coach and my wife being the head volleyball coach, things are fixing to get crazy here in about another week.”
Often, whatever weekend that July 4 falls is when coaches opt to take their holiday, so that they can be in the fieldhouse the remainder of the month working on X’s and O’s and making sure their student-athletes are focused and in top fitness.
For the holiday, Anna coach Jason Heath took his family to Bricktown in Oklahoma City for a few days.
“We were able to take in a minor league Dodgers game, spend time walking around and visiting the Botanical Gardens and even spent time to take our kids to the Murrah Building Memorial,” Heath said. “Visiting the memorial gave us an opportunity to talk about the events of that day and the impact it had on our nation.”
Bells head coach Scott Ponder said he uses the Fourth to take his family to visit his hometown of Tenaha.
“It’s the last real break until Christmas,” Ponder said.
S&S Consolidated head coach James Gage said his family took a trip to Nashville for the Fourth of July and watched fireworks with 240,000 people.
Gage said he was also planning to attend a family reunion in Decatur this weekend. His father Ronnie Gage, a former Austin College head coach who coached Lewisville to a pair of Class 5A state championships in the 1990s, is now a head coach in nearby Paradise.
No exotic trips are in the cards for Gunter head coach Jake Fieszel, who is fresh off a 16-0 season and a Class 3A Division II state championship, the school’s first in football. Having a very young family makes it tough to go out of town for recreation.
“I sure wish we were doing something this year,” Fieszel said. “We have a 4-year-old boy, 2-year-old girl and a 3-month girl so we have our hands full right now. A lot of playing on the backyard and swimming.”
Sometimes, a promotion can change a coach’s summer plans. That’s the case with Whitewright’s Mason Edwards, who was elevated to head football coach and athletic director in April.
Taking over the football program with the biggest coaching turnover in Texomaland this millennium, Edwards is the ninth Tigers head coach since 2000, but is determined to leave his mark.
“The only excitement my family has had this summer is summer workouts (two of my three kids attend) and organizing our fieldhouse,” Edwards said. “We have completely re-organized the fieldhouse and done quite a bit of painting.”