"Coach?" asked the student manager.
"What, Sam?" Coach Riner asked back.
"We forgot the kicking tees." Sam was a senior. He had been the student manger since sixth grade. He enjoyed the small aspects of the job, setting up the athletic tapes in small pyramids in the training room, watching film with coach and marking down the notes as Coach Riner asked. He took pride in the things that made the football team run smooth behind the scene. The last two years had been the best so far. Coach Riner appreciated the small things. He would bring Sam a Code Red Mountain Dew for film sessions. Coach Riner always told him thank you. Sam felt horrible, then felt even worse as Coach's right hand started to rub and pinch the top bridge of his nose. That meant he was trying to control his frustration. "What should I do?"
Coach Riner couldn't even think. The bus was late because of a mix up. They had a horrible week of practice after the debacle at Andrew High to go to 0 and 2. And to top it off the Patriots had ended their season last year.
"I'll get it solved." Coach Riner said.
Sam was discouraged. He left to get the water bottles ready.
Coach Riner walked across the field. The teams were running through their position drills. "Kevin, catch and secure." Coach demonstrated with his hands. Hands out to catch an imaginary ball, then moved his right hand to his chest to secure the imaginary ball. Kevin nodded his head and secured the ball high and tight as he ran back to the receiver line. Coach Riner continued across the field to find Coach Johnson.
They shake hands and make small talk. The Patriots were 1-1. Coach Johnson had been at the school for eight years. The team had been to the play-offs off and on four times. Last year both teams ended their season 4-5, but the Patriots end the season with a win and the Tigers a lost. The Patriots reflected the same attitude of their coach, a mix of simple respect with condescending edge. Coach Johnson smiled in such a way when Coach Riner asked if they had an extra 3-point tee they could use during the game.
Coach Riner thanked him and returned to the Tigers sideline. He handed the tee, with one of the ends secured by athletic tape, to Sam. "Please, return this to them when the game is over."
"OK, sorry coach."
"Don't let it happen again." Coach Riner said as he patted Sam on the head.
"I won't." am returned to setting up the equipment on the bench. Sam had a system, one bench for injuries. This bench had all the med kits, with a few things out and ready, like tape and tape scissors. One bench for "meetings," single player or team. Clipboards and markers and the small water bottle container. The third bench was his "game" bench. This bench had the coolers, a box with snack bags filled with dried fruit and granola, a bag with mints for Coach Glean, and Sam's bottle of Code Red. It also held the ball bag, tees, and the equipment box to handle those small moments, like a busted chinstrap. Sam was working on the first bench.
Coach Riner rubbed the bridge of his nose, and moved to rubbing his forehead right above his brow. He thought to himself, we have to win this game; we have to win this game. Four minutes to kick-off.