Black shorts, rain or shine

Low­ell coach­ing mys­tique starts with wear­ing a black pair in any weather

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - Front Page -

Low­ell coach­ing mys­tique starts with don­ning shorts in any weather, colum­nist Mike Hut­ton writes.

At Low­ell, coaches get a pair of black shorts be­fore the sea­son starts.

There are other small give­aways, but that’s the most im­por­tant item.

What does it mean to be a Red Devil?

It means the head coach is ex­pected to wear shorts on the side­lines in rain, snow, sleet or sunny weather.

It’s a Red Devil trade­mark with a few ex­cep­tions. The gift is a hint for the other coaches.

“If I walk out in pants, all my guys are like, ‘What is go­ing on?’ ” Low­ell coach Keith

Kilmer said.

The beauty of high school foot­ball? It isn’t col­lege or pro­fes­sional, where you have to dress ap­pro­pri­ately if you’re the coach.

That means long pants.

The rules for side­line at­tire in high school change when the wind starts howl­ing and tem­per­a­tures hit freez­ing.

Ex­cept if you’re a Red Devil, where there’s a deep mean­ing to see­ing Kilmer’s bare white legs in mid-Novem­ber.

OK, not re­ally.

The shorts-wear­ing his­tory doesn’t have much nu­ance.

Former Low­ell coach Kirk Kennedy, who started the tra­di­tion, was sim­ply more com­fort­able wear­ing shorts.

He has one funny story about the year he didn’t wear shorts.

When Kennedy started teach­ing, he wore a shirt and tie to school.

On Fri­day, he would go home be­fore the foot­ball game and put on his shorts.

One year, though, a buddy of his stopped by school to chat. The two talked for a while. Kennedy lost track of time. When the con­ver­sa­tion fin­ished, it was al­ready time for the pregame.

He didn’t have time to go back and change.

The Red Devils won that night, so Kennedy, who played foot­ball at Louisville, went with what Kilmer called his “Howard Sch­nel­len­berger look” for the rest of the sea­son.

He was su­per­sti­tious, though, so Kennedy ditched it the next year.

He hated it.

Kilmer re­calls wear­ing long pants only three times in 19 years as an as­sis­tant and head coach.

They were a semis­tate game against Fort Wayne Dwenger in 2008, the New Prairie Re­gional game in 2014 and last year’s New Prairie Re­gional game.

Kilmer doesn’t mind the cold, “but if the wind is howl­ing, I’m a softie. Some­times, you gotta be smart.”

Kennedy said he does not re­call wear­ing long pants on the side­lines af­ter his Sch­nellen- berger sea­son. He wore sil­ver, pur­ple and white shorts at Bloom­ing­ton South and navy blue and sil­ver shorts at Franklin County.

Kennedy coached at Low­ell from 1991 through 2009.

He knows he had long pants on dur­ing warmups for a game against Con­cord on Nov. 10, 2006 in Low­ell.

It was rain­ing side­ways that night and the wind was blow­ing 22 mph, ac­cord­ing to Weather Un­der­ground. Low­ell was hit with nearly three-quar­ters of an inch of rain.

Kennedy got a re­prieve.

They moved the game to the next day, and he wore shorts.

In the 2008 semis­tate game against Fort Wayne Dwenger on Nov. 22, tem­per­a­tures hov­ered be­tween 19 and 25 de­grees, ac­cord­ing to Weather Un­der­ground.

Kennedy wore shorts.

He just couldn’t coach any other way.

“It was an ex­pec­ta­tion,” he said. “Pregame can be a lit­tle cold but once the adren­a­line kicks in, you don’t feel any­thing.”

What’s ironic about the fash­ion state­ment is Kennedy started a tra­di­tion where the play­ers wore a shirt and tie to school on Fri­days.

That was be­fore Low­ell was good.

Kennedy did it be­cause ev­ery­one “used to make fun of us be­cause we were so bad. That was a way to turn a neg­a­tive into a pos­i­tive. Ev­ery­body liked it.”

Kennedy wishes there were some deep mean­ing to why he de­cided to turn Low­ell foot­ball into a shorts-wear­ing school.

But there is none ex­cept that he was “too lazy to wear any­thing but shorts.”

There are no plans to change the rou­tine be­cause tra­di­tion means every­thing at Low­ell and tough­ness is its virtue.

And Kilmer is just like Kennedy.

It’s just eas­ier, even if frost­bite lurks.



Low­ell Kilmer stands on the side­lines in a game against Fort Wayne Dwenger on Nov. 17, 2017.

Mike Hut­ton

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