If you talk about football, you’re talking about tradition.
It’s the kind of tradition that has generations of families priding themselves on having played for and supported the same teams. It’s tradition so deep that trees can become beloved family members and targets for destruction by rivals.
Think for a second, though, about what you would do if you had the chance to create a team from absolute scratch. No equipment, no history, no experience, no funds. Just a blank slate.
For almost a year, Brian Osborne has been doing that at Calvary Christian. The former Brookstone assistant coach was hired last summer by Calvary as its athletic director and given the reins to put together a football program and to be its first coach.
The school’s football team was accepted into the Independent Christian Schools of Georgia and Alabama Athletic Association last week, its inaugural schedule was finalized Wednesday, shoulder pads and helmets will be delivered Friday, and 28 football players are expected to show up this month or next for a few weeks of spring practice.
Just like that, a football team is born and set loose into the world.
“It’s been a challenge, but the experience has been great,” Osborne said. “I got to sit there and design what the uniforms will look like, what logo will be on the helmet, what color everything will be. The whole thing has been a great experience for me.”
But it definitely hasn’t been an easy one, Osborne said.
To avoid putting the school in debt, he set out to fund the team through donations, and he received enough support that he said everything the team needs to get to its first game Aug. 26 is in place.
“The toughest challenge has been raising the money up front,” Osborne said. “We were working hard to get people to donate money, and people really stepped up.”
With that support has come enthusiasm you might expect from a football-less high school in Georgia. Osborne estimated about 15 players would want to join the team and in the summer said Calvary would compete in a football league for eight-player teams. But about twice as many athletes have committed to the team, forcing Calvary to play as an 11-man squad unless it is willing to drop a few players to reach the league’s 24-player cutoff.
That wasn’t going to happen.
“There is just no way I’m going to cut a football player,” Osborne said. “No way.”
With the schedule finalized and equipment en route, Osborne’s next task is his toughest: coaching. Of the 28 athletes signed up to play, only one has high school football experience, and that comes from one season spent on a freshman squad last year.
The spring session will be used to run each athlete through drills at each position to find his best fit, teaching players how to put on their equipment, how to tackle, how to play their positions and all the terminology that goes along with it.
Calvary’s practices begin again Aug. 1 and give Osborne and his team about three weeks to prepare before being thrown into the fire in the Sept. 9 season opener.
“It’s going to be extremely tough,” Osborne said. “These guys have no idea how hard it is to play football. Whenever they put all the pads on in the heat in August, when they get hit for the first time, it’s going to be something completely new for them.”
It’s all new for Osborne, too, and there are some kinks left to work out. The team is without a home field and is in talks to use the football field at Britt David Park. Osborne still is looking to schedule a ninth game. And no one is certain what kind of abilities the athletes who come out will have.
“I’m very nervous, because I have no idea what’s going to happen out there,” Osborne said. “I don’t know what to expect. What if we go out there and I don’t have someone who can throw a ball 10 yards? It’s a big unknown for us all right now.”
Just enjoy the ride, wherever it takes Calvary, and bask in the opportunity to create a tradition that leads to generations of families priding themselves in having played for and having supported this team.
2011 Calvary Christian football schedule
Aug. 26, at Loganville Christian, Loganville, Ga.
Sept. 2, open
Sept. 9, vs. Covenant Christian
Sept. 16, at. Unity Christian at Shorter College, Rome, Ga.
Sept. 23, at Young Americans Christian, Conyers, Ga.
Sept. 30, open
Oct. 7, at New Creation Christian Academy, Stockbridge, Ga.
Oct. 14 at Life Christian, Eastpoint, Ga.
Oct. 21, vs. Holy Ground Baptist
Oct. 28, vs. Creekside Christian, McDonough, Ga.