At 7:31 a.m. on June 12, Kameron Arnold held Beckett Arnold in his arms for the first time.
His coaching colleague, Adam Brackeen, tried to prepare him for this moment, telling him it wouldn’t sink in that he was a father until the first time he held his child. But in retrospect, nothing could really prepare Arnold for how he felt when he first cradled his newborn son.
Nearly two months later, he still struggles to describe his specific emotions in that moment — he just remembers being overwhelmed with joy.
“That was by far the proudest moment I’ve ever had,” said Arnold, who coaches Tivy’s receivers. “It was kind of like an out-of-body experience. You don’t think about it and when it happened, it was awesome, it was amazing.”
It didn’t take long until Arnold started engaging in dad humor. He later snapped a photo of Beckett sleeping and superimposed a football on the image, creating the optical illusion that Beckett was carrying a football. He distributed the photo to Tivy’s coaches and his players with the caption, “Little man is already practicing good ball security.”
His Tivy football players have noticed several other paternal attributes as well.
“He has that dad strength now,” senior quarterback Trapper Pannell said with a grin. “He’s been getting some extra curls in, picking the baby up.”
“Well, he definitely has a dad bod,” quipped fellow senior quarterback Cole Miears.
One thing’s certain: Arnold summoned the necessary strength to survive his first week of Tivy football practice as a dad. He credits his wife, Brittany Arnold, as the chief reason for this accomplishment.
“She does a lot of stuff at home,” Arnold said. “She’s a super hero for sure. I wouldn’t be able to do it by myself. … Also, Beckett has fixed his schedule to help me out, which is awesome. He has slept most of the
night (this week) for the most part.
“Personally, though, I’m still tired.”
He isn’t going to receivesmuch sympathy from the Tivy coaches. And for good reason: Nine of the 11 coaches on Tivy’s current staff are fathers. They, too, know what it’s like spending long nights taking care of their children and arriving for football practice early the next morning. And they’ve been doing it for much longer than Arnold.
Arnold’s recent journey into fatherhood, though, underscores a challenge that coaches face every year during the fall: trying to balance their coaching responsibilities with their family obligations. Coaches work seven days a week during the football season, logging about 80 hours of work each week. They arrive at the field house about 6 a.m. to watch film and usually leave the facility at 8 p.m, often leaving their wives to maintain the household during the fall. Finding time to spend with their families during this grind can be difficult.
“It’s a lot of work,” Arnold said. “From freshmen up, we got to worry about making sure players are in the right spots, doing the right stuff. We are coaching them up and taking care of them.”
Tivy’s coaches, though, have discovered one simple solution to their work predicament — integrate their families into the Antler football program. Their wives have essentially become an extension of the coaching staff. They collaborate to provide postgame meals, affording Tivy’s coaches an opportunity to enjoy a hearty meal with their families in the field house on Friday night. They’ve also continued to check in on Brittany Arnold, seeing what they can do to help with Beckett. This Wednesday, Tivy defensive line coach Chris Russ and his wife, Megan Russ, delivered a casserole to the Arnolds (It was mostly Megan’s idea). They knew that Kameron was coaching Tivy’s freshmen team that evening, and didn’t want Brittany to worry about cooking something for dinner.
Most importantly, the wives help their husbands navigate the stresses of a season, participating in celebrations after wins and lifting their spirits after losses.
“It helps our husbands know we fully support what they do,” Megan Russ said. “We have to be their biggest cheerleaders.”
Tivy coach David Jones has also instilled an open-doors policy at Tivy: Family members are welcome at the field house at any time. Attend any given practice, and it’s likely you will see one of the coach’s children running around the field house.
Miears loves interacting with the coaches’ children after practice. He believes they enliven the team atmosphere and also encourages he and his teammates to remain on their best behavior.
“I want families to feel like they can come up here and see each other,” Jones said. “I have two boys who love coming up here and hanging out with the older guys. I think it’s a good environment for them to be in. I have always allowed that to happen. I think it’s something positive for our staff.”
Little Beckett hasn’t yet introduced himself to the Tivy football team. But he will likely attend his first Antlers’ game later in the season when the weather is cooler, watching his dad coach on the sidelines.
Arnold also plans on taking him to the Tivy fieldhouse to meet his players in the near future. It’s also likely that he will snap some photos of his son in the weight room.
After all, Beckett has already mastered ball security. Now, it’s time to start bulking up for football season.