Lake Norman & Mooresville

Coaches, team moms: The big names in youth football

Football has some big names: players and coaches who go from college to the NFL. Many of us can name of our favorite players and coaches without thinking about it.

But those aren't the only big names in football.

In Sherrills Ford, Shawn Lineberger and Chad Sigmon are among the biggest names in football. They're youth league head coaches.

Lineberger and Sigmon coach the Tiny Mites and Mighty Mites Trojans football teams, which together cover ages 5-9. They and 10 other coaches huddle with their teams for 15 or more hours each week. The boys are in kindergarten through third grade.

Some of these boys may not know why their parents pad them up for each practice. The youngest may not know exactly what sport they are playing. But the boys keep coming back for more practices and hard hits each week, coached by men and women donating their time after work.

In the Bandys High School football stadium on a Saturday afternoon, parents on the sidelines were impressed with the coaches: "I don't know how these coaches do what they do," and "It's like herding cats out there."

So why do they do it?

Coach Toby Hendrickson said, "I played football for four years at Mooresville High School. My son's first year of playing football was really scary for him, and he begged me to help him out. And that's how it all got started for me. And, of course, I love watching the boys learn the sport."

Danny Moore said, "Initially, coaching became a way of spending quality time with my boys. As time passed, coaching became more personally meaningful to me. I enjoy watching these youngsters develop and grow through a sport.

"Watching the team or even an individual player begin to understand the game and improve the sport with the team - coaching, to me, is a great escape," said Moore. "I can role-model children, while they find an understanding about the sport. I am excited to be a witness as they grow confidence."

"It's a pure love for the game," said coach Shawn Lineberger. "I've been coaching (youth) league (football) now for four years, and this year is my first year as head coach. Coaching is priceless satisfaction when you call your team to huddle, explain a play designed for the team, and watch 8-year-old boys execute it for a score. It's a 'wow' moment.

"Coaching is irony in motion," Lineberger said. "(It conveys) life's lessons through setting reachable goals, while they learn as a team to become one in discipline and respect with each other. It's an honor to apply life lessons to younger minds and watch them grow through the process. What better way is there than to spend quality time than coaching your own child?"

Coach Chad Sigmon wants to give back. "Growing up in the Sherrills Ford area, I played football through the Optimist program, and desire to give back to the organization what it once gave me," said Sigmon. "It's a meaningful process for me personally. My son plays on the Tiny Mites team. I see these boys with a lot of heart. They give football 100 percent of themselves.

"My goal for this season is to see this team walk away with basic skills of being a team," said Sigmon. Then he laughed and said, "Our goals are to get dirty and have fun. And the boy who gets the dirtiest gets to throw a pie at Coach."

Also among the big names in youth football are the loyal team moms, who help support the coaches. Tatum Lineberger and Jessica Cockman spend as much time as the coaches, coordinating practice and game schedules to support the team.

Cockman said, "There is so much more to our teams than practice and games. They're not just teammates; they become brothers. My hope is to lead by example and to get other parents involved in the process.

Tatum Lineberger, Shawn Lineberger's wife, said, "During football season it's all we talk about. ... I'm the glorified administrative assistant. I'm the go-to person for the parents. I love football season and every aspect about it. I'm the motivational shout-out cheerleader, and it's all so positive for me to be in the center of it all."

Coach Stanley Parker said, "Each day (that) I have the opportunity to be part of the coaching staff for the Sherrills Ford Trojans Mighty Mites, I get the opportunity to look into the future. "I have a glimpse of what Friday-night (high school) football has in store for me in a couple of years. It's also a chance for me to help in providing a foundation for the boys, so when they go to the next level, they have the confidence and skills needed for them to be successful."

Famed NFL linebacker Mike Singletary once said, "The best part about the game of football is the opportunity to play."

It's not about winning or losing. Youth leagues show us a different kind of "big name in football."