A former New York high school football coach is now a softball coach in Texas as he continues to separate himself from the sport following the 2011 on-field death of one of his players.
As reported in great detail by the New York Times in this terrific story, former Phoenix (N.Y.) Birdlebough football coach Jeff Charles is now the softball coach at Alief (Texas) Elsik. He is not a football coach in any capacity, and has no plan to return to those ranks.
The reason for his sudden departure has everything to do with Ridge Barden, a former Bridlebough offensive lineman who suffered head trauma during a routine play in the third quarter of a 2011 game, collapsed and later died.
“I didn’t want to sound like a quitter, but after my first year back I knew,” Charles told the Times. “I coached 10 ball games and I struggled every 10 weeks. It wasn’t fun. There was more anxiety every week.”
Barden’s death has clearly had a significant impact on Charles’ mindset and life. The coach said he wouldn’t completely rule out a return to coaching — “I wasn’t really willing to sacrifice that time for something I didn’t love as much as I used to” — but he also has no immediate plans to return. If he does return to football, he insists it will likely be to coach middle school athletes as a way to have an impact on their lives with less outside pressure.
Before then, Charles plans to continue focusing on the softball diamond, where he’s long followed his daughters, both to fulfill his role as a father and hide from the pain that has followed him since Barden’s death.