By Dency McClure
I made my first ever trip to Gold-Burg ISD. I immediately fell in love with the little school on the hill in the country. Across the road was a field full of round bales. The football field was at one end of the campus with lush green grass surrounded by open countryside as far as the eye can see. Behind the visitor stands was a barbed wire fence separating the open country from the little stadium. It’s definitely a peaceful country setting, except for the roar of a truck from time to time on the nearby highway. It was about 90 degrees and there was a good, cool breeze. Definitely not what one expects of an August afternoon.
The school is located in the town of Stoneburg. Ringgold and Stoneburg consolidated school districts making Gold-Burg. I thought it was neat how they used the ending of both towns to make the name for the new school district. It is always hard to give up a bit of your community identity to consolidate.
I arrived shortly before school let out and the junior high boys were on the field and finishing up their athletic period. I sat at the picnic table, at the end of the field, and watched. I was impressed by the number and their ability to throw and catch a football. I soon heard children behind me rushing to their buses. This was the signal for Coach Helms to release the junior high boys.
Coach Helms walked over, greeted me and then introduced me to his assistant Coach Vaughn. He told me it would be a few minutes until the high school boys would be out. He then told me he had seven players. I asked both coaches about the other town that made up the school district and was informed of Ringgold and where it is located as well as that Ringgold had maintained its own elementary until a few years ago.
The boys came out and greeted me as they hit the field. I heard them chuckling in the background as I was snapping pictures of the countryside. They found it funny I was there to take photos of them but instead taking pictures of the distance. It was kind of funny, but the views needed to be captured as well.
With only seven, it didn’t take me long to know I had captured pictures of all of them. They laughed and teased each other as they did their stretches like siblings and cousins would. The seven are already a family on and off the field.
The lone waterboy, an 8th grader, used his down time to practice kicking field goals. During one water break, Coach Helms walked over and spent a few moments with him showing him how to mark his steps and kick. As practice continued, he got better and better; carefully replicating what Helms had shown him. When the high school boys got to his end of the field, he would simply pick up his tee and move to the other end. I was extremely impressed with his persistence and self drive. He also kept the water ready for practice.
Coach Helms and Coach Vaughn spoke to me off and on over my time there. We talked about their district and upcoming scrimmage. Helms is looking forward to getting the boys some practice with six opposite them on the line. He chuckled and told me drills didn’t take long with only seven. He also told me they would look good at the beginning of games but that stamina would be their enemy. I bet stamina will build quickly as the season progresses and he helps them build it during practice. Cooler weather will probably also be their friend. I told them I was going to the Perrin for their scrimmage with Forestburg. Helms told me to be sure and let Forestburg know that Gold-Burg has about twenty players and that they are good and fast. We all chuckled about that. I told him I had his back and would talk them up to Forestburg.
I have shared the sidelines many times with Coach Helms during games over the years. I am always impressed by his calm, thoughtful demeanor and respect for his players. Today was my first time watching him in a practice setting. I was even more impressed today. I watched him calmly and intelligently walk the seven through play after play. Often asking the boys what they saw and what they expected and then telling them now this is what we are going to do. Every one of the seven was listening and answering and responding with knowledge. Today was not about physical conditioning, as it was the day before a scrimmage. It was a day about mental focus and the power that can bring.
I watched as he would bring the boys in and assign their positions and send them out again. Each round of plays a player would have a different position to fill. This continued as each boy played many different positions. When you only have seven, they must all become utility players mentally and physically. This is why I have dubbed them the Swiss Army Seven. Each and every one of them is learning to fill many positions and many roles for their survival as a team. They have to think smarter and perform smarter than a larger team player. They have to be able to play both sides of the ball every single down of the entire game. Giving it their all from whistle to whistle. There are no offense and defense players called out as the ball turns over. They are it! They won’t leave the field except for the occasional relief from their seventh man rotation. I can’t even begin to imagine the mental and physical exhaustion it would take to do that play after play and game after game. A true testament to the game. Lots of teams have done it over the years just to play the game.
The Swiss Army Seven have a strong chance to do well this season. They are all quick, smart, athletic and already a family on and off the field. With Coach Helms at the helm they have a great chance of riding the waves of turbulent trials with their crew of seven strong. As long as they can face the cross winds, they have a good chance of sailing into the playoffs.
See you on the sidelines!
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