EDGINGTON — With a pair of middle school-aged daughters involved in their own sporting endeavors, Sam Graves did not want to find himself missing out on their events.
That said, his decision to step aside as Rockridge's head football coach after a highly successful six-year run was far from an easy one.
"It was a hard decision; there were quite a few tears shed. I'm doing this for my family, but at the same time, I'm leaving a different type of family behind," said Graves, who recently chose to speak about his reasons for leaving the Rocket sidelines after his resignation earlier this year.
The son of state-championship winning coach Steve Graves (Monmouth Yorkwood, Class 1A in 1983), Graves went 48-18 with the Rockets and reached the 2A postseason all six years, including a quarterfinal run in 2014. His first two teams each posted 10 victories.
"There's memories that you look back on and smile," said Graves, who will continue to teach business classes at the high school. "I'd have loved to have retired as the football coach at Rockridge, and have this be a job I'd have my whole life, but basically, it boils down to family. I've got two daughters who are going to be in seventh and eighth grade.
"They're participating in more sports, which takes more time. My wife (Daphne, who coaches girls' golf at Rockridge and is an assistant for the Rocket softball team) and I coach their USSSA team."
When it came to events he would not be coaching his daughters in, Graves first and foremost wanted to be there in the stands to lend his support.
"I didn't want them to look around in the stands and not see their dad there," he said. "I've seen coaches retiring in their 50s and 60s, and talk about wanting to spend more time with their families. That hit me hard. I didn't want to be saying that in my 50s and 60s."
With that in mind, Graves has not totally ruled out a return to football in the future.
"Who knows?" he said. "Down the road, when they grow up and have their own families, I may get back into coaching. I haven't ruled that out. For now, I want to make sure my daughters know there's nothing that I won't be there for them."
As he moves on in life with his family, Graves admits that once the 2019 football season gets into full swing, some habits will be hard to break.
"I'm trying to keep myself busy with a lot more softball; my wife is the head coach of our daughters' team, and I'm her assistant," he said. "Sometimes I'm sitting on the couch watching TV, and I start thinking about run plays, game-planning stuff. I have to remind myself I'm not part of that anymore.
"It's going to be more weird in the fall, when the kids start coming back and I don't have the Friday night lights anymore, and the relationships with the kids. It's not out of my mind, so it's weird to turn that page."