By the end of the losing football season, I realized that my mom and I could’ve probably done a better job coaching the team to at least one victory. Unfortunately our play calling from the end zone and directives to “Pass the ball!” fell on deaf ears. About the only thing worthy of celebrating after the last game was that our contact with the creepy coach was over. Fast forward to Christmas, about six weeks after the season ended, and the coach invited our whole family over for a Christmas party at his house. Another teammate of my son’s was invited, too, and I thought it’d be fun for the kids since Santa was making an appearance. Thankfully the coach wasn’t playing Santa so no kids sat on his lap.
By spring, my son signed up for basketball. Low and behold, the football coach was now coaching basketball on my son’s level. He’d coached older boys who’d supposedly had winning seasons. The coach contacted me after seeing my son’s name on the player list and said he’d love for him to be on his team. I felt cornered. But I didn’t have any concrete proof that the coach had done anything to warrant my feelings. I just had an uneasy feeling that wouldn’t go away. The basketball season was almost as bad as the football season with only a handful of wins. Once again I was thrilled when the season ended and our contact with the coach ceased. That was only wishful thinking on my part. The coach knew that my son was in the school chorus after having missed a few basketball practices for rehearsals. So he asked for the date and time of the next performance and attended with his wife. (Side note: We all know that being married doesn’t stop predators. Refer back to Sandusky.) I still couldn’t shake that feeling in my gut.
Come fall, I’d decided that my son wouldn’t play football. He had one more year in the recreational league before he’d enroll in a feeder program through his middle school. I simply wasn’t going to go through another season and risk getting assigned to that coach’s team again. I can’t remember the excuse we gave as to why my son was sitting out a season after having played continuously since kindergarten. My son did, however, attend a few of the games in what would become yet another losing season. When it came time for the playoffs, the coach contacted me to see if my son wanted to watch the game and eat afterwards at a Taco Mac. There was a part of me that felt guilty for thinking the coach liked young boys since he hadn’t done anything other than sendoff weird vibes. I’d even searched for his name in the sex offender registry, just seeing if somehow his background had eluded the vetting process for recreational coaching. There was nothing. So after having another frank conversation with my son about grown men and private parts, I dropped him off at the high school stadium and the coach brought him home.
When round two of the playoffs came the next weekend, he asked once again if my son could go. He went to the game, and when I picked him up afterwards the coach said, “I love you” as my 11 year-old son climbed into the car. In that moment, time stood still as I processed his words. That was the day I knew that my gut had been right. What man, coach, or non-relative would say, “I love you” to a young boy? I thought about my husband, my dad, and every other male I know and not one of them would make that remark. Ever.
Maybe the coach knew by my facial expression that afternoon that I was on to him. That year there was no invite to the Christmas party. And I thought back to the party the year before and wondered why my son and his teammate were the only boys invited. The other boy was like the stereotypical victims of abuse I’d heard about with a single mom and absent dad. I don’t know why the coach was drawn to my son. The coach sent me a text a few months after the “I love you” incident to inquire about my son. That was the last time we’d had any contact. While I still don’t have any proof that he broke any laws, I consider that coach my own brush with a Sandusky. I’m just glad that my son is safe.