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Army's Jeff Monken: Football coach and family man

Army coach Jeff Monken.

STARS AND STRIPES

By KEN MCMILLAN | The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. | Published: September 25, 2020

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WEST POINT, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — Given his druthers, Army head coach Jeff Monken would have preferred playing Brigham Young last Saturday, pacing the sidelines and exhorting his football players to put out their best effort against the Cougars. 

But then 2020 got in the way again. BYU was forced to postpone its trip because of COVID-19 cases on campus and potentially tracing into the football team. Attempts were made to fill the hole on the schedule but to no avail, leaving an early season void that is rare in college football, let alone at West Point. 

Generally, when a West Point football season starts it rolls on uninterrupted until late October, paused only for two weeks of preparation headed into the all-important games with Air Force and Navy. In this instance, however, the Black Knights were forced into a bye week, by week two or three, for only the fifth time since football started in 1890. The most recent instances came in 2001, when the September 11 terror attacks prompted a nationwide shutdown and November re-scheduling of a game with Buffalo, and a 2008 scheduling anomaly made possible by an August start date. 

So what was Army to do? Simple, march on and spend two weeks prepping for perhaps the Black Knights’ most challenging game of the revised 2020 schedule, a Top-25 showdown at Cincinnati this Saturday. Late-afternoon practices pretty much stayed the same, and a Saturday morning scrimmage was put in place of the 3:30 p.m. game with BYU. With the rest of the day free, the suggestion from Monken to his staff was simple: go enjoy yourselves. 

Monken used his newfound free time on his family, “which was fantastic,’’ he said. His parents were in town, adding to his joyous bonding with kin. On Sunday, the Monkens – with wife, Beth, and daughters Isabelle, Amelia and Evangeline – went to church in the morning and then headed across the Hudson River to Cold Spring to visit a waterfall. 

“That was really pretty,’’ Monken said. “It was nice just to be outside and spend time with the family. So, yeah, I took a little bit of a break. You don’t get that very often in the season but I really enjoyed it. It was fun to be able to spend some time with my kids and my wife.’’ 

Football coaching – whether it be the NFL, major colleges and even high schools – is often a thankless, 24/7 job, requiring many lost weekends, cold dinners and missed school functions. The demands are plentiful and often unavoidable. So when the opportunity arises, enjoy the free time. 

“Everybody needs a break,’’ Monken said. “Players need one. The coaches need one. Everybody does. It just helps you recharge the batteries and refocus because it can become a grind, and coaching is that way. We spend an inordinate amount of time at our jobs – early mornings, late nights – and recruiting, and it can be very consuming. 

“My wife and my kids deserve to get some time with me, as a family,’’ he added. “I said to some other head coaches that I talk to, ‘You know, my wife and kids might not care if I’m around but I sure like being around them, so it’s nice to get a little time with them.’’ 

Quick as that, though, it was back to work and a normal routine this week, and not a moment too soon for driven coaches like Monken.  

“A weekend like that just gets you excited to get back in the office and get back to work,’’ he said. 

Halloween is the next open Saturday so Trick or Treating is certainly in the mix for Monken and his young daughters. The Saturday following Thanksgiving is open right now but you can be sure Army will squeeze in a game for Nov. 28, perhaps a re-scheduling of the BYU game, or maybe independent Massachusetts asks to be re-instated – there’s no better way to work off a huge turkey dinner than pacing the sidelines, any coach will tell you. 

So, football widows, don’t get used to these rare Saturday off days during the fall. Leaves change but not coaches. 

kmcmillan@th-record.com 

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