Cincinnati had the Ickey Shuffle in the late 1980s. Raceland’s got the T.J. Maynard Shuffle.
No, the 6-foot-5 former offensive lineman doesn’t break into a trademark dance like former Bengal Ickey Woods did after touchdowns. But, he certainly has had to do quite a bit of shuffling the last two summers right around the time of Ram Camp.
Raceland’s fourth-year head coach holds a full deck between family and football. There’s no shuffling that order — family comes first, Maynard said.
Maynard’s oldest daughter, Alexis, is a talented softball player who has kept the coach hopping in recent weeks. Her All-Star team has advanced deep into summer tournaments the last two years. In 2012, Alexis was on the Russell-Flatwoods 11- and 12-year-old Little League state champions. This year, her Junior League All-Star squad took the state title.
All of that means many miles for Maynard.
On Aug. 2, Maynard accompanied the Rams to Bengals training camp in Cincinnati. From there, he drove to Akron where his daughter’s team was competing in the Central Region Tournament. By that Sunday, he was back in Raceland preparing for the football team’s annual weeklong camp.
“It’s hectic,” Maynard admitted, “but you only have so many opportunities to do that.”
Alexis sustained an angular fracture in her finger during a game with her travel team, keeping her from the pitching circle during Central Region Tournament pool play. It didn’t keep her out of right field or the batter’s box, though.
The All-Stars went 1-3 and were eliminated. T.J. Maynard was able to witness the 15-5 win over Missouri.
While he wanted to see his daughter advance even farther, he was finally able to take a breather after five trips to Vanceburg (district tournament), four days in London (state) and the trek to Akron.
“As I’ve gotten older, I think you’ve got to find that balance between commitment to your team and commitment to your family,” Maynard said. “There’s a fine line there.”
According to players, Maynard has seemed to find it.
“He has time to be with his family, and then he’s right there for us,” said junior standout Connor Messer. “He’s been a wonderful coach. I love what he does.”
Said senior quarterback Adam Elkins: “We always break (the huddle) on ‘family,’ but we’re pretty much his second family. I totally understand.”
Maynard misses very few of his two daughters’ events, but he’s also rarely absent from football functions. It helps, he said, to have a hard-working staff surrounding him — assistants Mark Lewis, Michael Salmons and Gary Fannin are a few of the longest-serving.
“I’ve been blessed with great assistants. I trust them to do what needs to be done,” he said.
It’s give-and-take between coaches, too, as Maynard stresses the importance of their family time as well. For instance, Fannin coaches his son’s third-grade JFL team. If he has to miss a JV or freshman game, no problem. Maynard or Salmons is there.
“We spend a lot of time with our players but, at the same time, we can’t neglect our family,” Maynard said.
Juggling can be trying at times. Maynard remembers the first time he ever missed a practice when head coach at Greenup County.
“My wife had a family reunion in St. Louis,” Maynard recalled. “I can remember driving by the practice field and seeing all the guys. It just tore me up.”
Maynard recently added more to the dish. He’s coaching his youngest daughter, Alyssa, and her fifth-grade travel softball team.
The irony of it all? Alexis and Alyssa attend Russell schools.
“That’s a tough one,” he said with a laugh. “The toughest thing is when Russell and my daughters are playing Raceland. Then, I see those other young ladies that I see in the building. I root like heck for my daughters, but I’m still rooting for Raceland to be successful, too.”
Does that create a conflict of interest? The Russell graduate quickly puts the kibosh on that thought.
“Most people that know me understand the situation,” said Maynard, whose daughters have always been in the Russell school system. “I’m happy where I’m at, and I’m happy doing what I’m doing, but I’m not going to miss my daughters’ stuff.”
Still, Raceland softball coach Shawn Johnson loves to get some ribbing in.
“Coach Johnson is constantly saying, ‘Hey, she’d look good in orange and black,’” Maynard said, smiling.
For now, T.J. is the only Maynard in those colors. He’ll lead the rest of the orange and black onto the football field on Saturday, Aug. 24, at home against East Carter.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.