Coach's Formula, The

What David Overheard.


By Shade

Somewhere in a small town, near the beginning of the school year, on a Thursday…

In any other set of circumstances, with better physical advantages and perhaps with some luck, David Martin might have been a very ordinary sort of high school junior.

But he was a little small for his age. And underweight. He was only about five feet, four inches and weighed 120 pounds soaking wet, standing in his stocking feet. He looked at first glance like a sixth grader. He was not unpopular with his fellow classmates so much as invisible to them. And, let’s face it – David was also a bit bookish. Well, frankly, I’d have to admit that David was downright nerdy. You know the type: nice guy, but a bit clueless about navigating through the social morass of adolescence. And, not unnaturally, David was from time to time the object of good natured fun and ridicule from his fellow peers. Or, not to put too fine a point on it, more usually the members of the football, wrestling, baseball, soccer, hockey, lacrosse and track and field teams. He might have been similarly teased from other quarters of his society, except for the fact that no one in the student council, honor society, band, drama club or choir took any notice of him.

He was his father’s oldest son.

His father was a former United States Marine and champion powerlifter. He had two younger brothers, Ryan and Ted. His parents doted on their children. They were in all honesty very good parents and sincerely tried to make their children happy.

But they didn’t understand David. He was a total enigma to a family who had put all their stock in physical ability.

His father and mother had harbored a secret fear through the years when David was a young child. That fear had grown as he entered middle school and was now full fledged disappointment as David was nearing the end of high school and preparing for college. He was never going to be the strapping, athletic good natured sort of boy for which they had longed and dreamed. A son perhaps like his younger brother Ryan, who had started high school that year as a freshman. Already, Ryan had far outpaced his older brother physically and socially. He had landed a much coveted position on the varsity football team. Even David’s younger brother Ted, at the age of twelve, was more than a physical match for him.

David’s parents nursed their fear the same way that other parents nurse a fear that their child might be gay or an ax murder. When confronted with the inevitable, they berated themselves for their own failure as parents. It must have been their fault right? After all he came from such good stock. Through no conscious fault of their own they had begun to show greater favor to David’s more athletic, robust siblings.

It is fair to say that David wasn’t happy with his lot in life, even if he’d become somewhat resigned to it over the years. He would have given anything to be the sort of son his parents admired and hoped and wished for. The sort of young man who might find himself on the football team. One who might even be a star athlete.

Now at this point I would like to beg the reader’s indulgence to allow me to digress for a moment. You see, when considering David’s predicament, it was important not just to consider him, but his surroundings too. Frankly, there weren’t a whole lot of nice things that you could say about David’s home town. Or even his high school for that matter. It was like most other small towns and small town high schools scattered across the United States. Median to poor income in most households; a lot of local businesses and industry having closed in recent years.

But there was one thing of which its citizens were especially proud. They had, hands down, one of the best football teams in the state, if not the best, and some people even dared to dream further. No one was quite sure how this amazing turn of events had come to pass, but no one was scrutinizing the phenomenon too closely either. Everyone was just counting their lucky stars. It brought a ray of sunshine into their otherwise ordinary existences and gave them something to root for. And everybody loves a winner right?

Coach McCready had been the football coach at the high school for a long time. He was in his late thirties, and, until recently, approaching middle age with the same lackluster grace that a lot of aging ex-jocks show. Which is to say that he’d been gaining weight and going to seed for some time. The football team had been showing such dismal performance that there had been budget cutbacks. Things had gotten so bad that at one point McCready had taken a part time job at a local manufacturing and distribution facility that prepared sports drinks before it had suddenly closed up its operations a few years ago.

It was about six months later that the football team’s fortunes had unexpectedly started to increase. Which is to say that they actually won a game. And then, surprisingly, they kept on winning. And with their good fortune, McCready’s own fortunes seemed to improve. He shed his extra weight and got back into the same contest ready shape that he had shown years earlier as a professional football player and one time amateur bodybuilder. He even began to put on some serious muscle. Once again he was ripped to shreds and he’d surpassed even his best past physical conditioning. He now weighed in at an inspiring 300 pounds. His football players began to improve physically also. You see McCready had improved their weight training and conditioning programs and tried experimenting with new techniques. All of the players showed a marked increase in size, strength and stamina after playing just one season for McCready. Over the next two years new players had improved as established players continued to improve. Both he and his program were showered with money by a grateful school district. Football scholarships were being given out right and left.

With all that in mind, I can tell you that it was on a breezy fall day, a Thursday in fact, during the early part of the first semester of David Martin’s junior year that he heard something in the men’s bathroom he wasn’t supposed to hear. It was something that would ultimately change his life forever.

You see it was one of those occasions when he’d had to take a piss really badly. So he’d ducked into the closest john, which also happened to be the one closest to the extremely well equipped school weight room. Remembering that it was important to be as unassuming as possible when you tend to be the object of good natured fun and ridicule, he had ducked into a stall at the far end of the lavatory. The one furthest from the door. He’d hoped to get in and out quickly without running into anyone. Fortunately for him, he didn’t.

He had been about to exit the stall, when three guys entered the bathroom. He recognized one of the voices as his younger brother Ryan and the two others must have been some of his fellow jocks.

“This stuff tastes like shit,” said Ryan.

“I know dude,” said one of the other guys, “But it’s worth it.”

“What is it exactly?” asked Ryan.

“It’s some kind of supplement,” said the third voice.

“What’s in it?”

“Who cares dude, just chug it down,” said the second guy, “It’ll give you arms like these. I promise.”

“How often do I have to take it?” asked Ryan again.

“We all take it once a week before the big game on Friday nights,” came the reply.

“So why do I have to drink it every day this week?” Ryan continued pressing the other boy.

“All the new players get a can each day during the week of their first football game,” said the third guy, “For extra conditioning.”

David was not in a position to see any of them, but he could imagine what the second voice had shown his brother. Ryan had been working out with their father since he was twelve, but even as well developed as his arms were – and they were very well developed for a fourteen year old – they were nothing in comparison to the arms of most of the other players on the team. Most of those guys had rock solid arms in excess of eighteen inches.

David listened as his brother chugged the rest of the drink, and heard something hit the trash bin. The guys joked around for a couple more minutes, talked about how hot some of the cheerleaders were, and then left to go back to their workouts.

When David finally got up the nerve to exit the stall, he walked over to the trash bin and found a can inside. It looked a lot like a soda can. It had a pop top lid. But it was plain silvery colored metal with no markings or wrapper on it whatsoever. He picked it up and saw that there was some chocolate colored liquid still inside. For all intents and purposes it reminded David of one of those a meal replacement shakes that dieters drank. It even had that sort of fake, chocolate smell that some of those drinks have.

That’s when it occurred to David that the contents of this can might hold the key to helping him out.

What he lacked in brawn, he more than made up for in brains. He figured that if Coach McCready was dispensing this stuff at school, then he must be keeping a supply of it in the school for convenience. At least so one would assume. What was clear was that Thursday afternoon was not the place to go and look for it.

That opportunity came the following day. •

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