October 22, 2022 4 min read 4 Comments
Alan Chadwick, 71, has been lifting up kids for 47 years. He doesn't want to stop, not yet anyway. The Atlanta high school football coach still has a competitive burn. Photo courtesy of The Marist School.
By Ray Glier
Alan Chadwick, 71, a high school football coach, doesn’t have much time for career soul-searching in the middle of October. He is immersed in that week’s game, not dwelling on his career running out of road.
His identity is tied to the sport, to the school kids, to being competitive, so Chadwick can’t easily nudge those things out of the way and think about golf, or his particular favorite, snow-skiing.
For now, the leaves are falling and it is not the time for a football coach to contemplate the words, “I think it’s time to go.”
Chadwick is in his 47th season coaching at The Marist School in suburban Atlanta, 37 as head coach. This is where he’s been since a brief run at the NFL with the Chicago Bears and a tryout with the then-Washington Redskins. He was a quarterback at East Tennessee State University.
“The fire still burns for competition and the striving for excellence is still there,” Chadwick said. “Making an impression on young people, teaching them how to commit to work, dedicate themselves. Those things are still important to me.”
This is what many Geezer Jocks come face-to-face with every day.
“When”, for most people, is a larger part of the vocabulary when you hit 71 and you are still working.
That’s why it is important to write about this.
There is data to explain why people like Chadwick are still working. According to the Social Security Administration, individuals who enjoy a higher socioeconomic status (SES) tend to work longer than lower SES individuals. That is revealing because people don't only put off retirement because they need the money. Apparently, satisfying work is more important than money.
In the 1990s, the average retirement age was 57 because there were so many people receiving pensions. People are working longer now, but it's not only because they have to get a paycheck to eat.
It turns out many put off retirement because their mission is not complete. Work is a need.
What was particularly striking in talking to Chadwick, who has been the Marist head coach since 1985 and has won three state titles, is what he said about “memories.”
“Still making them,” he said.
Making memories requires work seven days a week, if you are a football coach.
Monday he is at school at 7:30 a.m. and stays until 9:30 p.m. Tuesday is heavy scouting after practice, which lasts until 7:30 p.m., or 8.
Wednesday is a lighter day, home after practice, but Thursday it picks up again because he stays for the freshman and junior varsity games.
Friday, Game Day, he stays until 11:30 p.m. Saturday he is back at school for five hours, and then he puts in a few more hours more on Sunday.
The hours demonstrate that Chadwick’s career still has momentum, even after 415 wins, second-most ever in the state.
Here is where being a Geezer coach helps: the staff that works those hours alongside him trust him and the knowledge he brings after 47 years.
“The chemistry of our staff is the strength of the program,” Chadwick said.
Why is that? Because a head coach who is secure and understands how to run a program through years of experience understands how not to be a tyrant. Chadwick does not have assistant coaches fleeing out the door because he is stuck in “the old days.”
The old dog has old dog tricks of structured practice and routines. The old dog also learns new tricks, like the “spread” offense to go with an old-fashioned rock-em, sock-em option game. The defense is even more multiple with varied fronts and schemes.
You can’t trash this 71-year old coach for being stuck “in the stone age” because he has kept up with the evolution of the game. It reminds me of the 75-year old runners who have adopted a vegan diet, a mostly-modern convention of 20-somethings, or 30-somethings.
“I still don’t have all the answers,” Chadwick said. “The game keeps changing, evolving. It’s evolved more in the last eight or 10 years than ever before.”
It isn’t what Chadwick said about the job that makes sense, it’s what was unsaid about the job that revealed his purpose and his passion.
He was on a bench on the sidelines of the football field Wednesday at 3 p.m. as a P.E. teacher while 7th graders played touch football in the last class of the day. Chadwick was watching for the boys with good hands, strong arms, a frame that could add weight….his future players.
“I get to know these young kids, that’s why I still like teaching,” Chadwick said. “I make a big attempt to communicate with them and motivate them, push them, challenge, love on them a little bit.”
The older coach has reach, awareness, and perspective, none of it dimmed by age. Last summer Marist had 700 kids attend its football camp over two weeks. 700!
“I think they see me as a generally good guy,” Chadwick said. “I’m not just a hard-ass all the time.”
You see why this story matters, right? It's because the job still matters to this Geezer Jock in ways more important than a paycheck.
Alan Chadwick, 71, can communicate with kids. "I'm not a hard-ass all the time."
photo courtesy The Marist School.
Copyright © 2022 Ray Glier
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