By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
When Isaac Devlin came trotting across the field, blood pouring out of his nose like a faucet, Stillwater High School coach Seth Condley didn’t panic.
Instead he let out a roar of approval that could be heard across the field Tuesday at the Stillwater Junior High School — a roar that inspired the nearly 100 other players to be just like their injured counterpart.
“In most sports, you have to be tough to play,” Condley said. “But to get a ball or something to the face and blood dripping down Isaac’s face, it was pretty cool to see. He’s a tough kid anyway. If it was going to happen to anybody, I’m glad it was an older kid that could handle it, and he’s one of those kids that can handle it. That’s kind of part of it. That’s part of sports. You’re going to get hurt. You just have to fight through it.”
Condley’s Pioneer Soccer Academy may be teaching future Pioneers and Lady Pioneers what it means to be hard-nosed — literally — but not a minute went by where the Pioneer coach wasn’t running along the sidelines shouting words of encouragement.
“I love it,” Condley said. “This is what I love doing. I love being out here with the kids. The kids kind of feed off the energy of the instructors and the coaches, and I know the younger ones were very, very tired at the end. They were tired but they fought through it, and it was a good first day.”
Any time the little kids are exhausted, it’s a good first day — something Condley knows firsthand. Not only is he the coach of the camp, he’s also a father. And like any good father, he was right there as his son fought off defenders during scrimmages and competed in the throw-in competition.
“It’s tough to not want to coach your kid, but that’s why you put them with these team leaders that know what they’re doing,” Condley said. “I try to stay out of it as much as I can. The coaching side of me wants to coach everybody out there. It’s tough to hold back, but you just have to leave it to the team leaders. They all do a great job.”
On the sidelines those team leaders were giving speeches similar to the ones Condley often gives them — preaching on focus, toughness and making good passes. But above all, the main thing each coach — Condley included — wanted was for the players to stay hydrated and have fun.
“You could hear everybody cheering for their different teams and their champion (during the throw-in competition) and that was cool,” Condley said. “I just like seeing some of the kids I haven’t seen in a year or so and I like the games. It’s fun to see where they’re at and how much they’re improving.
“But our main goal when the kids come to here is to make sure they have fun. If they pick up a skill or something they can work on, great, but we just want to make sure that everybody has a good time. I think we accomplished that today.”
Even with a bloody nose, Devlin’s smile said it all. No matter what happened, nothing — not even a ball or header to the face — was going to keep him from enjoy the next four days of the Pioneer Soccer Academy.