HOW I FOUND MY RHYTHM WHEN THE MUSIC STOPPED

At a time in everyone’s life, we come to find ourselves in a situation where the music stops, and we must go on.  The unfortunate truth about life is that the unexpected will happen. Some of us learn from it, some of us change because of it and some of us find our life’s calling because of it. The latter was the case for me.  After our dad picked us up from middle school, we spent that afternoon like we had every afternoon that month. We went to the oncology unit at the hospital, where my brother was admitted.

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THE MAN IN A BLUE SARONG

I remember him. I remember the man in the dark blue sarong the same way I remember the lines on back of my own hand. He was hunched over next to a column on a dirty platform at a railway station in Calcutta, India in the middle of the harsh summer sun. His hands were withered, his fingers and toes looked like tiny nubs, and he was completely malnourished and alone. He had opaque blue eyes, as if fog had taken place of his irises and pupils.

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PATIENT “OWNERSHIP”

I studied insects in college; my favorite insects were the bees (I found them diligent and so helpful to humankind).  One of my favorite classes was about medical diseases caused by insects. My professors noticed my interest in the medical side of things and connected me with a professor who did clinical research. Our work focused on a clinical trial for children with intractable epilepsy and exposed me early on to patient care and patients.

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The first major challenge was the loss of their sponsor school, Bowling Green Christian Academy, over the summer. This was due to a merger with another school, Anchored Christian School, to form a new school in Bowling Green called Legacy Christian Academy. While the opportunity to be associated with this new school or another school may arise in the future, this merger ultimately resulted in the Bowling Green Warriors being an independent football team without a school sponsor for this season and resulted in practices and games being held at the Hattie L. Preston Intramural Complex on Western Kentucky University’s campus. Lacking a school sponsor also means that they are not provided basic amenities that other football teams enjoy, such as a weight room and workout equipment. However, they do have a strength and conditioning coach that helps lead offseason activities using the resources they have obtained.


The loss of a sponsor for a football team would be a significant challenge at any time, but context is key in this instance. All of this was happening in the midst of a pandemic, which brought a host of other challenges. The first major challenge was getting enough players to fill the roster. The Bowling Green Warriors had 10 men on their roster by July, as many kids decided not to play amid the uncertainty of a season occurring at all due to COVID-19. However, as the season appeared to materialize, they were able to almost double their roster by opening night.


The next big challenge that the team faced as a result of COVID-19 was meeting the Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) and Kentucky government mandates. Although the team is not a KHSAA member, the Hattie L. Preston Intramural Complex is following these guidelines and the team must as well to use the facility. This meant that the Warriors were like every other high school team in the state, waiting for a green light to have the season. This also meant that the Warriors had to follow the COVID-19 guidelines set forth by the state. To ensure compliance, Dr. Brown indicated that the team has assigned a “COVID-19 monitor” coach. His major responsibilities are to remind players to follow social distancing guidelines and screen for COVID-19 before every practice and game utilizing COVID-19 screening questions and temperature checks. This does not exclude the games either, as fans were screened entering the facility. Also, Dr. Brown announced prior to kickoff that everyone must wear masks at all times. If these guidelines are not met, spectators will no longer be allowed to attend the games.


The Warriors find themselves in the unique predicament though of being behind most of their competition from the start.  Most football teams on their schedule are from Tennessee and thus fall under different guidelines. According to Dr. Brown, Tennessee guidelines have allowed teams to practice for the last month and start playing games 2-3 weeks ago. Meanwhile, the Warriors were only able to start padded practices a week ago due to Kentucky guidelines. Similarly, Dr. Brown indicated that they had to cancel games against opponents in COVID-19 hotspots as they would lose access to their facility.


The first game of the season is in the books, but that by no means guarantees the last game of the season will ever be played. The challenges facing this football team are ever-present and changing, with COVID-19 being at the forefront. Unfortunately, this is the reality of existence for most high school football teams. There is always an unease that, at any second, something could change to alter the season, or even cancel it completely. However, if only for the night, I was able to see the world revert back to a time before COVID-19 for the young men out on that field.  

The  sound  of  popping  shoulder  pads  greets  me  with  its  beautiful symphony as I get even closer to the field. However, I am not truly transported back in time until I look out across the field at the young men of the Bowling Green Warriors football team preparing for their first game of the 2020 season. I remember the excitement and thrill of the season’s arrival as the monotony of summer weightlifting and practices came to an end. The prize of gameday had finally arrived! It was time to show what all that work had been done for. The gleam in the player’s eyes and the excitement filling the air so thickly that I can taste it. It tells me that this is true for them too. This is not exclusive to the players though. I catch a glimpse of the Warriors head coach and I see the same gleam. I know all too well he feels it too.


As the game progresses, I see the Warriors head coach signal in plays, direct his players, and steer the offense. Tonight, he is a leader of young men on the gridiron. By morning’s light, he will return to his day identity: Dr. Donald Brown. Dr. Brown serves as a vascular surgeon and director of medical education at Med Center Health, along with being the general surgery residency program director for University of Kentucky College of Medicine Bowling Green. However, tonight that seems a world away as Coach Brown celebrates with his players as they score their first points of the season.


The Bowling Green Warriors were started by Dr. Brown and others in 2015. They are a member of the Middle Tennessee Athletic Conference, which runs an 8-man high school football league for teams

BY NICHOLAS COFFEY

composed of homeschooled and small private Christian school students throughout middle Tennessee and Kentucky. Dr. Brown has been the head coach of the Warriors since their conception and was able to coach his two sons through the program. His youngest son graduated two years ago. However, Dr Brown continues coaching saying, “I have built great relationships with the kids on the team. They wanted me to stick around to coach and I enjoy coaching them, so I did. Coaching is really like therapy for me as it gives me a way to decompress and have some fun. I love football and I really love coordinating as it allows me to dream up plays and new ways to attack defenses.”


Dr. Brown went on to say that he loved the relationships that he had developed with his players and that this team acts as his ministry. He and his assistant coaches not only present an opportunity for young men to be active and exercise, but also try to teach their players life lessons and values throughout the season and offseason program. These lessons have a wide range of topics and everyday uses with discipline, organization, selflessness, and teamwork being a few mentioned during our talk. Most of these lessons arise organically within the context of what is happening to the team. That being the case, the 2020 season has already presented many opportunities for lessons with the challenges this team has faced just to play their first game.