Athens Review, Athens, Texas

August 17, 2012

School days bring back Fridays as an athlete and musician

Rich Flowers
Associated Press

Athens — The school year is about to get up and running, and pretty soon it’s going to be all parents can do to keep up with the kids’ schedules.

I don’t have children of my own, so I watch as others rush hither and yon to be at this practice or that concert.

I admire anyone who can be a  good parent, and make sure the students are into what they should be into, and staying out of the other stuff.

I know when I was growing up in Mesquite, by August I was a little bored with vacation, and ready to get back into the classroom, although I wouldn’t admit it. I was in the band at Mesquite High School, and was anxious to tune up the old horn, and start fall practice.

There were hot marching sessions to endure, but  on the other hand, the band hall was one of the few air-conditioned buildings in the school, and felt like heaven after sweating it out between the yard lines.

Band is a good place for students to learn some things that will be valuable later  on in life – like how much Brasso it takes to shine a sousaphone, or how  to apply white shoe polish without getting it on your sleeve.

A great benefit of being in a good band is learning a sense of unity and team spirit. When we would perform well on Friday night and shine, everybody was happy, but if we didn’t stay in line, and execute our turns, Mr. Polk had a way of making us want to pull up a piece of the turf and hide under it.

Former Athens Band Director John Glover spoke to the Athens Kiwanis Tuesday, and said when the band kids took the field, the thing they cared most about was pleasing him.  It’s funny, but mom and dad and the whole community could be watching, but they wanted to look good in his eyes.

That’s the kind of leadership we need in our coaches, music directors and teachers. Even today, I still like to get a pat on the back from someone I respect.

The quality of a band is forged in all of those practices when no one but the director is watching. You don’t miraculously show up on Friday nights, hit all the right notes, and remember the drill.

You also have to practice on your own.  My director used to say that it takes a band until Wednesday to reach the point they were at when they went home on Friday night.

You have to be faithful to practice when you’re away from school. I guess that’s the reasoning behind homework, although I never got into that much.

We have some really excellent band programs in our area, and the students are a treat to watch at the games. Those kids play some pretty tough music too.

I gave up football after junior high, because I recognized my lack of talent. Coach Benny Carter helped me by saying things like, “You got to be tougher than that, Flowers.”

Life on the bench wasn’t so bad though. We won all of our games, so the coaches were  generally in a good mood.  I’d usually get in the game in the fourth quarter, and chase the opposing quarterback around. Teams didn’t pass  so well back then, especially in junior high, so we weren’t likely to get burned for a quick score.

There was that one game at Corsicana where they actually led at halftime, 6-0. We got the ball, punted, and then watched them use up most of the first and second quarters, before taking it in for a touchdown.

I listened as coach Carter gave the team a bracing pep talk, full of vague threats of what would happen in practice the next week if we didn’t turn things around.

Since I was a lineman, I got to hear the exhortations of Coach Clyde Van Sickle, who was near retirement age, and once played for the Green Bay Packers under Coach Curley Lambeau (yes, that Lambeau).

I had a lot of respect for Coach Van Sickle, because he diagrammed the plays, putting the Xs and Os on a chalk board.

I had never seen anyone diagram plays before, and wasn’t sure whether or not he had invented it. But he sure seemed to know what he was talking about.

We came back in the second half,  and blew them out. When we got up by a couple of touchdowns, I got in the game, only to give up a long run when the lead blocker pulled me down by my jersey.

“You’ve got to be tougher than that, Flowers,” Coach Carter screamed.

Failing that, I decided the better way to go would be to practice my horn.

Rich Flowers is News Editor of the Athens Daily Review.