MOORE — Jeff Brickman likes to make sure people are happy.
So when he saw so much unhappiness, so much disaster and so many tears surrounding his team on May 20, he wanted to meet with his coaches to talk about what they could do to make things better.
They came up with the idea of asking for donations. They brought the idea to their booster club and within two or three hours a website was set up collecting the donations.
Southmoore ended up raising $87,000.
But even then, Brickman learned some people can still be unhappy about the way donations are doled out.
“Sometimes you get put in a bind,” he said.
He originally didn't intend to become a people pleaser or a coach. He wanted to be a broadcast journalist. He almost completed his degree at Oklahoma. Then an internship at a local Oklahoma City station taught him that he would work unusual hours, and worse yet, he couldn't be a fan. That meant no cheering. That's not Jeff Brickman.
So the kid who originally played safety at Moore returned to coach at a local middle school under former Moore coach Tom Noles. From there, he worked his way to a position in Texas. He thought he'd stay and coach in Texas forever. Then circumstances changed, he returned to Moore and met his wife.
“It's home,” Brickman said. “It's what you get used to. Anywhere you move you'll have something.”
Brickman said he believes Moore residents need to be smart and safe. His family has a storm shelter. He knows Southmoore, with its cinder block walls, is safe too.
But safe doesn't always stop an EF-5 tornado. That's what happened May 20, when 22 of Brickman's players lost their homes. That's the day he realized that football doesn't matter as much as he thought. That if a kid doesn't set a block properly, there's no need to yell at him.
“I teach psychology,” he said. “I think the way we're built is you tend to forget or suppress when bad things happen. I think that a lot of us have kind of suppressed that. It's still there, but when it first happened the first week or so, you really realized that things aren't that big of a deal.”
That suppression started three months and two weeks before the official start of football season, though.
It's part of moving on. It's part of the healing process. It's part of returning to “normal,” whatever that really is.
That's why Brickman's found himself and his team back in football mode because football does matter as much as he thought. The home of a football field was what 22 of his players, who have to drive from near and far, turned to when they no longer had their own family home. That's why they're back to pushing their team to strive harder, to make that right block and to sometimes yell.
It comes with the job of a head high school football coach, whose main job, first and foremost, is to be a teacher. Brickman admitted that sometimes his job is stressful. Some days he doesn't eat lunch to make his practice plan. And there's the pressure that the certain people put on a coach and a coach puts on himself.
“Sometimes when I feel a lot of pressure like that I think of that day,” Brickman said of May 20. “I think, ‘Hey all that really matters is Are you a good Christian person? Are you taking care of your family? You go home. You have a house to go home to. You have a wife and kid. Everybody's safe and it gives me a little bit of comfort.”
He does it in the name of happiness and to him and his Southmoore players, football is happiness.