We’ve been talking about it all summer. I’ve covered more camps than I can count. Young athletes have been out as early as January lifting and preparing for it. Finally on Wednesday I felt it.
Football season is coming.
Wednesday morning bright and early found me on the football field of Fannin County High School covering the last day of their youth football camp. Now as I said a few sentences earlier I’ve been out all summer covering football camps, but this was the first time it really clicked with me that we are only a few weeks away. And I won’t lie, a lot of it had to do with the weather.
There was a slight breeze and I dare to say chill on Wednesday that I hadn’t felt all summer. Granted it was early in the morning and I’m so used to summer heat that even the slightest temperature drop can make me reach for my jacket. But this time, surrounded by young athletes who are the future of their program, it all started to set in.
It’s hard to imagine Friday Night Lights when it’s 90 degrees in Georgia in the middle of July. When I think of football I think of all the late Friday afternoons when I was in high school and the trees were ablaze with the bright orange and reds of fall. I think of the UGA games I’ve gone to where it’s been so cold part of the reason I was standing was not so much to cheer than to try and keep warm.
I will admit, football season has kind of snuck up on me this year. Earlier in the summer, Team FYN Sports was in baseball mode covering the local youth tournaments. I was in baseball mode keeping up with the Braves. But this is the South, and not just the South but SEC stronghold too. So of course even though baseball comes to the forefront, football stays simmering on the back burner at all times. That’s another reason why when I felt that cooler air on Wednesday, I was so easily able to slip back into football mode.
Local high schools start back as early as the week after next, with scrimmages coming the week after and then regular season the week after that. It’s crazy to think how time flies, and for teams that have been out practicing all summer, they realize that this is where the rubber meets the road.
I remember the first story I did for Team FYN Sports involving football was earlier this summer when Dawson County scrimmaged Pickens in a spring game. It took me a moment to realize when I got to the Dawson County field to realize that were weren’t in August, and this being in May we still had another three full months to go. But you couldn’t have told that to either of the two sides that night.
The Dawson County mommas circled up for pre-game prayer, and lined up to form a tunnel for their sons to run through onto the field. Both home and away stands had a decent amount of fans to fill them. Both schools even brought their marching bands, and Pickens brought their cheerleaders. This energy is what I try to convey to everyone when I say that sports, and especially football, create a community rivaled by few other events.
Each time I’ve gone to a camp, or scrimmage, or even just a practice in this community, I’ve seldom been the only one there who is not a part of the team. Parents will come by to see their sons, or even just community members will drop by to get a look at the team before they run out for the first game. There’s something else special about following a team from the ground up, a season from the beginning to end. I know I’m not the only one that feels that way, and it makes my job all the much more enjoyable.
Over the last couple of weeks BKP and I have been going around North Georgia and interviewing coaches from all of the teams we cover. While last week I focused on the coaches and all of the effort that they have been putting in, it’s no overstatement to say that these players have been putting in their fair share too.
And they all seem ready. They’ve all been lifting and getting stronger since the beginning of the year. They’ve been out running drills and working for positions since the weather was warm enough. Now they’re breaking out the pads, helmets and fine tuning plays until it’s time for that first kick-off.
Football season is coming, and from the locker room to the press box, I think we’re all ready.
Over the last week and a half BKP and I have been going from school to school interviewing head football coaches for our North Georgia Coaching Series. Now if any of y’all know BKP, you’ll know what I mean when I say that he’s been doing most of the talking and I’ve been doing most of the observing. But this doesn’t bother me, it gives me a chance to learn more about the programs I’ll be spending a lot of time with this fall.
With that being said, there’s one thing in particular I’ve been noticing in our interviews, and that’s how much these coaches truly care about their players and their programs.
Now me saying that might make some of y’all think, “Well, duh. That’s what they’re supposed to do.” Well, maybe. But I like to think I’m pretty good at picking up when someone is just putting on an act for appearances. And I can say with all sincerity that none of these coaches are doing that.
Obviously when BKP and I go into these interviews, he asks questions about what the teams have been doing during the summer and how they’re planning to prepare for the regular season. But he also asks the coaches if they can highlight a few players that have really stood out. This point in the interview, I believe, is where a coach who didn’t care would possibly just say a couple names and move on.
But these coaches not only name the players, they tell us about why they stand out. And it’s a sign of the hard work of these athletes, but there’s also a sense of pride from these coaches as they name them. A couple of coaches have mentioned that it’s hard to name just a few, because all of their players have worked hard. And it’s not that the rest of the team doesn’t matter or that they don’t care about them, but the ones that they mention they do so without hesitation because they’ve been there with them through the summer truly coaching them. There’s no so-so about the commitment these coaches make- they’re all in.
Another thing that has amazed me about these coaches, not just in the interviews but learning about them off the field, is how much they care about their community as well. A couple of them, such as Chad Cheatham at Fannin County and Chad McClure at Hayesville, are natives to their communities. It’s home to them, and they’re not going to be just halfway in their commitments to their programs.
When Coach Caleb Sorrells of the Lumpkin County Indians was first named as head coach, the school hosted a meet and greet for him. It was one of the first stories I covered in this position.
In his address to the parents, Sorrells promised to not only invest in the team as players and athletes, but as men who would one day be employees and fathers. I remember being caught off guard at first because I was expecting him to talk about plans for the future of the program, the summer schedule and what not. He did talk about these things, but I believe by telling the parents that he was going to invest in the players as men showed that it was going to be a priority.
Although I know more about the commitment that Sorrells has made because I’m positioned in Lumpkin County, he’s not the only one in the area who gets involved in the community and works to build up the athletes’ character.
Tim Cokely with the White County Warriors has an entire wall of his office decorated with signs of good character qualities to instill in the team. Chad Cheatham, who I mentioned earlier, referees basketball in the football off-season just because, and the community loves him for it. I’m sure that many of the other coaches in the area do similar things and I just don’t know about it yet.
These are commitments that we see played out by coaches in movies and don’t always think to look for in real life. And because I grew up in Gwinnett County, population one million, if there was this sort of commitment by coaches I didn’t always see it because there were so many people. I love living up here in North Georgia in a smaller community where an act of kindness, especially where sports are concerned, rarely goes unnoticed.
We think about football as a sport that instills a since of discipline, but why is that? Because there’s a coach that sets that standard and inspires the team to do the same. As a community we love football and we love our team, and we can thank a coach for that.
Artist Jenny King has been a fixture on the Marietta Square for almost a decade. At the end of the month, she will be moving her studio from the cozy spot above The Australian Bakery, to a shuttle bus conversion. “Leaving the Square was a tough decision, I love it there, the people, the community, but ultimately, transitioning into a mobile studio is in alignment with a project I’ve been working on for awhile now called Artist on the Lam.”, she explains.
Since 2009, King has contributed countless hours to help create the booming art scene present today on the Marietta Square. Her efforts include sharing her studio space with other local artists via Red Door Art Gallery & Studio, creating the charity event Trilogy, making the First Friday Art Walks more exciting for patrons with Mystery Themes, and even donating her services to The Winter Wonderland Experience by painting the mural at the ice rink, and that’s just to name a few.
She has strived to help bring the community together through art, so why move off the thriving Marietta Square now? She says that it’s simply the right time for her. “The Square is in a good place with some very talented and dedicated people to support it. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for the last 19 years, my boys are getting ready to go off to college soon and so now I’m looking forward to slowing down from the grind, logging some travel time while still being able to create art.”
Her new project aims to continue that spirit of building community through art, but on a broader platform. It’s described as “a video documentation of the creative process presented in an engaging format to nourish your mind and spirit.” She breaks it down for us like this: “If Bob Ross and American Pickers had a baby…it would be Artist on the Lam.”
Fellow artist Kirk Stansbury is an integral part of this endeavor as he brings a different style of art and perspective. His work uses many upcycled and repurposed materials he randomly finds and constructs into a folky and funky art.
“I’m excited about it on a number of levels.”, says Stansbury. “This is a new experience of the unknown. I’m looking forward to traveling to new places, the adventure, meeting new people, the things we’ll discover to create art. My only hope is to educate and inspire others while having a little fun along the way.”
The diversity of Kirk and Jenny’s styles along with their congenial personalities is sure to make this a dynamic production, which is on track to launch in 2018.
The heart of Artist on the Lam is to inspire people by shining light on what it takes to create art in a way that others may learn. “If even one person out there can take something from this, can learn something new, travel (even if only vicariously) to a place they’ve never been, but especially if someone connects with their inner artist from watching Artist on the Lam, we will know we have achieved our purpose.”
King is not quite ready to leave the Square completely however. Her art will be remaining as she partners exclusively with Markay Gallery. “The Light Series is an important body of work to me.”, says Jenny. “I went through some very difficult life changes over the last two years. I’m still going through it. This series has been very soul healing for me.” The collectors that are drawn to these paintings seem to appreciate the ethereal feeling of hope they experience when viewing her work as well.
Markay Gallery, located just off the Marietta Square at 26 Winters Street, is the newest venture to join the Marietta Square, its owner however, Amber Markay Byrd, has been a prominent figure in the community for the last decade and has had a significant impact on the growth and success of the arts in the area.
“Having met Jenny almost 10 years ago, I have loved seeing how she uses art to connect with people in such a special and meaningful way.”, says Byrd. “Her canvas is her page and her paint is the story. Her work is beyond beautiful, it’s a personal connection to behold. Having her on board as a Markay Gallery artist is an exciting new chapter for both Jenny and the gallery. We’re honored to represent her!”
Amber’s vision and forward thinking approach to connecting collectors to the kind of art that “you just can’t live without now that you’ve seen it” has catapulted Markay Gallery to the top of unique gallery experiences to acquire the best and brightest the art world has to offer.
Jenny King still accepts commissions for clients who value a personal touch when it comes to art. View all the services she offers at www.JKingArtworks.com.
To learn more about the Artist on the Lam project, please visit www.ArtistOnTheLam.com.
For more information on Markay Gallery, please visit www.MarkayGallery.com.