Hampshire football coach Dan Cavanaugh recently finished his final season with the Whip-Purs, finishing his tenure with a 121-121 mark that included a Class 2A state championship in 1995. Cavanaugh, who is 55, also will retire from teaching at the end of the school year, making for perfect timing for him to leave the sidelines. But Cavanaugh, who began his coaching career in 1989, admits retirement hasn’t hit him yet and that from a football standpoint, it might not stick.
I still really enjoy [coaching]. The year-round part of it is certainly something that has changed and is a little bit of a grind. But I don’t think it was that so much. For myself, I’m retired from teaching and it’s time to go onto something else. I’ve had my fun and it’s time for someone else to have their fun now. I’ve talked to other coaches who have been in the same situation and they said, ‘You really miss it when the season rolls around again.’ You start ramping up in August and that’s when you really start missing it. Right now, I see the guys in the weight room and yeah, it hits you a little bit. But I think it will be something different when fall rolls around.
I think I’ve learned patience more than anything else. You do learn a lot about yourself (through coaching). I have a good friend who coached at Lake Zurich and he said to me one time, ‘When you go into coaching, you feel like you’re worth at least eight wins a year.’ But you learn as you go on – and you learn very quickly – that’s not the case. It’s humbling as you go through the years and you work with the kids and you see all the great coaches out there and it humbles you. You don’t go in thinking about that. When you go in, you’re young and you think you have all the answers, and so I guess it’s surprising (to learn what you do about yourself) because you don’t expect it going in. But you sure learn things as you go along.
As you coach, you hope that the kids play for you. You always want your kids to play hard and I think our kids have always played hard. I don’t know if they [played harder because of the retirement]. But at the end, when it was all said and done, they all – to a man – came up and congratulated me and that means a lot. It always means a lot when your players and [former] players come back to talk to us. They’re on the sidelines with you and they come to practices and that always means a lot. You don’t really think about it when you’re going through that you’re making some kind of an impact on people. You hope that you are – that you’re having a positive impact on them. So that hope is kind of justified when you have players come and say things to you (when it’s over).
Down the road, I definitely think I’ll leave the door open to coming back. My plan now is to at least take one fall off, sit back and watch other teams play and go to some college games. Then, I’ll see if that itch is there – which I think it will be – and so I’ll certainly leave that door open for later on I’ve been doing this for 33 years – eight at Dundee-Crown and the rest [at Hampshire] and every autumn on Friday nights – it used to be on Saturday afternoon – you’re used to having games and scouting and just the whole routine, it will be different. No doubt about it.
• I’m Just Saying is a regular Sunday feature. If there’s someone you’d like to see featured, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message on Twitter @NWH_JeffArnold.