Desert Ridge football coach Jeremy Hathcock has three kids, one of whom (junior running back Alec Hathcock) has been a ball boy since age seven.
Eats, breathes, lives football, in his father's words.
But, as father-Hathcock pointed out this week, the interest waned earlier this season. It became a job, tedious, draining.
Football naturally feels that way, especially for kids and coaches who reach this late point of the season. But not yet by late September, around the time the Jaguars and Brophy played each other the first time around (they meet again on Friday night in the Div. I quarterfinals at Desert Ridge H.S.).
Like most programs, Desert Ridge expects a lot from its kids, offseason and obviously especially in-season. To the latter, Hathcock estimated about five hours of watching film per week, plus weightlifting and often three-hour practices, longer than most schools.
Through direct and indirect voices, Jeremy Hathcock said he noticed his kids were dragging by Week 4 and Week 5; Not enjoying the parts that most usually don't enjoy in pursuit of the more rewarding facets down the road.
"I did some soul searching, and maybe I lost sight of the bigger picture a little bit," he said. "(Football) is a brief moment in time and simulates life experiences. I could see it was a drag, not fun. It was fracturing and putting kids under pressures. It was too much of a grind."
The demanding regiment remains, only in shorter spurts. Hathcock cut back practice time and gave occasional Saturdays off to his kids.
"It's rough on kids and they drag and are tired now, that's not uncommon," he said. "Week 4 and 5 are supposed to be fun."
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.