I remember walking the Terrebonne High School football with with coach Gary Hill about three or four years ago.
It was early October. I was there for a story on the Tigers.
Coach Hill and I walked from their field house to their practice field, chit-chatting about different topics along the way.
The field was putrid. I remember carefully picking my way through muddy spots, sandy divots and soft spots as we made the trek — each step a challenge to my brand new shoes.
But to Hill, he wasn’t perturbed, nor taken back by the soil under his feet.
Because for life as a football coach in Terrebonne Parish, mud, sand, divots and injury hazards were just a regular ol’ part of day-to-day life.
Until now, at least.
Rarely do I chime in on political issues within the context of our paper, but the Terrebonne Parish School District absolutely, positively made the right decision this past week when they decided to dedicate funds to getting turf for the parish’s two public high school fields.
I’ll take it even a step farther and say that I don’t know why this took so long. I’ll go even beyond that and add that I don’t know why it was even a close vote or a heated debate.
This, folks, is a no-brainer.
The job of our schools are to educate kids and to get them ready to be productive, useful citizens who can someday start the cycle over again with their own children and grandchildren.
And to do that, first and foremost, they have to be safe in their school activities.
Our playing fields locally are anything but.
Look, it’s southeastern Louisiana. It rains here — especially in the summer time. That’s our climate. If people don’t like it, they have two choices: move or be upset with the weather.
In August and September, the damp climate moistens the field. Our players then play on wet, slippery grass to start he season. OK, that’s why there are cleats. That’s not a huge deal.
But what becomes a big deal is that after a month of playing on wet grass and mud, the grass dies, which leads to divots and sandy holes. After a dry period, that muddy, sandy field bakes in the late-summer sun and becomes brick — a haven for concussions, ankle sprains and every other injury imaginable in football.
I host a weekend sports talk radio show every Saturday morning. I remember several years ago both Thibodaux coach Chris Dugas and Central Lafourche coach Keith Menard coming on air and telling us that they’d played one another on a dry, sandy field and both teams lost multiple players to lower-body injuries.
At that point, I was appalled and had heard enough.
We did a lot of stories in our paper about the benefits of having a field, citing financial figures relating to cost of both turf and grass. We also talked about those injuries and how everyone involved believed they were a direct result of an unstable natural grass surface that just couldn’t survive the workload that was put onto it.
It worked. Lafourche Parish voters passed an existing facilities’ milage, dedicating the money raised to paying for the turf.
At the time of the passage, I was happy and excited for my friends in Lafourche, but deep down, I knew that it was a bittersweet victory because Terrebonne Parish actually needed this more than Lafourche — all things considered.
And so we waited. It took about 12 months, another wet summer and for varsity football games to be moved out of Terrebonne Parish and into other locations in the area, but it finally happened.
This time next year, there will be new, safe surfaces at Terrebonne High School and at South Terrebonne — a huge win for student-athletes, coaches and supporters of high school, middle school and youth athletics in the area.
I’ve talked a lot about football in this column, but let’s be honest. This is a win for all students.
Our fields are used by every high school student locally — even non-athletes.
There are PE classes, school activities, band practices and community events all on that 120-yard stretch of grass.
Athletically, there are varsity, junior varsity, freshman, middle school and youth-level football games on the grass. In addition to that, the fields are used for track and field meets, soccer matches and much more.
It’s a no brainer. Everyone wins once this takes place.
It’s frustrating that it took so long, but it’s better late than never.
Congratulations to the student-athletes, coaches and athletic supporters in Terrebonne Parish.
You got the turf you’ve longed for.
It’s much deserved. Now, let’s hope we can get through the rest of the year with dry, favorable conditions, because we still have a whole lot of football, soccer and track to be played on the grass.
No. 7 Lafourche moves on field turf
It was a wet summer in Louisiana, which devastated area playing fields – a now seemingly routine occurrence in the Houma-Thibodaux area.
South Terrebonne High School’s field got it the worst. They played a game against Bonnabel during a driving rain storm, which damaged the field so badly that Ellender had to move its home game the next week to Patterson High School.
Another game between Central Lafourche and Thibodaux High was played in difficult conditions, which coaches speculate led to several sprained ankles and leg injuries during the game.
But help is seemingly on the way – at least in Lafourche.
The Lafourche Parish School Board is asking voters to renew a facilities millage, which they’d then use to put turf on the parish’s three fields.
That vote will come in 2017, but is widely expected to pass, because it is not a new tax for citizens.
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