Now an AAU basketball coach, Kobe Bryant stirred controversy about a week ago with an Instagram post that shamed one of his girl players for missing a game for a dance recital.
“So that should tell you where her focus was,” Bryant said in the post.
Bryant has since walked back that comment in an attempt to explain how his intention wasn’t malicious.
Fortunately for several football players across the Lancaster-Lebanon League, they aren’t pressured to choose between a fall sport and participating in the marching band.
“We don’t limit a student from doing what they want to do,” Lancaster Catholic football coach Todd Mealy said.
Three of Mealy’s football players are in the marching band this season: senior Oliver Klemmer, junior Aiden Stehman and sophomore Blaise Stehman. They are three of about a dozen L-L football players pulling double duty on Friday nights this fall.
The others are Annville-Cleona junior Kenny Schaefer, Conestoga Valley senior Frank Haggerty, Ephrata sophomore James Ellis, Lebanon sophomores Jaime Torres and Angel Martinez, Northern Lebanon junior Arthur Shirk, Octorara senior Nick McCaw and Penn Manor junior Dorian Zimmerman.
Of course, they aren’t the only L-L fall sport athletes in the marching band. For instance, Klemmer’s sister at Lancaster Catholic, Vivian, juggles field hockey and playing the mellophone for the Crusaders’ marching band, while Annville-Cleona has five field hockey players in the marching band, including drum major Leah Krall. And there are several others across the L-L League just like them.
The football players, though, likely stick out to fans the most Friday nights for the simple fact they look different than their bandmates since they’re performing in a football uniform.
“It’s a different experience,” said Penn Manor’s Zimmerman, who plays the trumpet. “People will say, ‘Oh, it’s a football player.’ They’ll look at you a lot more, you’re the one everyone is looking at.”
There's about a dozen L-L League football players in the marching band this season.— John Walk (@JWalkLNP) September 19, 2019
Pick up a copy of Thursday's LNP Newspaper to read about it!@LancasterSports @LancasterOnline @LCHS1022 @LCatholic @ToddMealy @AnnvilleCleona @AC_coachG @ACAthleticDept @PMSportsMed pic.twitter.com/acIP58Xzuc
And thus brings an added stress to perform well.
“You can see me in the football uniform so sometimes the student section will call out my name,” said Annville-Cleona’s Schaefer, who plays the mellophone. “So it’s a little bit of pressure but it can be enjoyable.”
Then there’s a few other components, like catching your breath from football warmups or first-half game action and immediately picking up an instrument for a marching band performance. And being somewhat constricted physically while performing due to the football pads.
“It’s made it harder to hold the tuba because of the shoulder pads,” Lancaster Catholic’s Klemmer said.
And factor in the coordinated movements, or sets, of the marching band members as they glide in and out of different formations on top of playing their instruments, which can be made a bit difficult when wearing football cleats.
“In marching band we’re taught to roll step,” Schaefer said.
A roll step is essentially pointing the toe upward at a 45-degree angle when stepping forward.
“The concept is to keep your body from not moving at all so it doesn’t mess up your lungs,” Schaefer said. “But it’s tough in cleats because if you try to roll step you’ll scuff the ground and trip forward. So I just kind of go flat-footed and make the softest step I possibly can.”
The sets themselves are developed at marching band practices held earlier in the week. Most marching bands practice once or twice a week, oftentimes at night.
“And it’s nice that they practice at night so it doesn’t interfere with our practices,” Annville-Cleona field hockey coach Carrie Gingrich said.
It does, though, make for a long day with school, sports practice and band practice for those juggling all three, which also includes finding time for dinner and homework.
“Usually my mom will bring something to eat that she either made at home or go out and get something and bring it,” Zimmerman said.
To pull off everything successfully takes a good work ethic.
“I really like both things (football and band),” Schaefer said. “And if I enjoy both things and I want to do them it’s something I have to do.”
He appreciates not being pressured to choose between one or the other.