A whistle, a blackboard, a returning quarterback--those are precious gifts for a high school football coach.
Darryl Stroh and Brent Newcomb have changed their perspective. A new hip has soared to the top of their lists.
Each is feeling revitalized after undergoing hip replacement surgery. Instead of contemplating retirement, they're making plans to continue coaching this fall and beyond.
"My wife says I'm kinder, gentler and sexier," said Stroh, 63, who has been coaching football off and on at Granada Hills High since 1963.
He had double hip replacement surgery on Feb. 27 at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood. It has changed his life. The daily pain from walking and even sitting is gone.
"The pain was so bad I couldn't sleep at night," he said. "I've had it for years. I can remember 20 years ago riding in a car and being uncomfortable. It just got worse and worse. It's been absolutely wonderful without the pain. It's unbelievable. I can't believe I was living with that much discomfort and accepting it."
Newcomb, 59, has a similar tale. He has been coaching football at Antelope Valley High since 1969. His pain got so bad last season that he refused to make the long walk to the locker room at halftime for several games.
"I sat on the bench and watched the halftime show," he said.
On March 5, Newcomb had his left hip replaced by Dr. Domenic Sisto of the Los Angeles Orthopedic Group. The surgery took a little more than an hour. What a difference it has made.
"The pain is gone," Newcomb said. "You have to be there to know the feeling. It's almost immediate. They get you up and walk you the first day."
Philadelphia 76er Coach Larry Brown had hip surgery. So did Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski. The surgery can extend careers and take away years of pain.
North Hollywood High golf Coach Steve Miller had double hip replacement surgery seven years ago. He's so free from pain that he plays lunchtime basketball, not to mention lots of golf.
"It's a great operation," said Dr. Lawrence Dorr, who performed Stroh's surgery. "Not only does it achieve the medical goal of getting rid of pain but allows [the patient] to achieve their social goal, whether coaching football, dancing, playing golf."
The pain becomes unbearable when cartilage wears down in the hip joint, usually from degenerative arthritis. The diseased bone is removed and a titanium ball is inserted in a plastic socket. The cost for the surgery can be more than $20,000 for double hip replacement.
"Life is too short to go around and feel miserable," Stroh said. "I almost can't remember when I didn't have some discomfort. You become very irritable."
So now Stroh's former players understand why he yelled so much. "Pain in the hip or pain in the butt, I don't know which one I was," he said.
Stroh's current players already notice a difference in his demeanor.
"He's still passionate about football but seems a lot nicer," linebacker Joel Fitzgerald said. "I know he's still in some pain from the hip surgery and if we get him mad, it will aggravate him more. But it's good to have him back."
Newcomb is entering his 25th year as head coach. His retirement plans are on hold.
"Once you get it in your blood, you go as long as you can," he said. "I'm still having fun on Friday nights."
Stroh will probably retire from teaching when he reaches 65, but he wants to keep coaching football because his hip pain is gone.
"I'm a lovable guy now," he said.
And if his players believe that, they'll be running laps from dawn until dusk when they mess up.
As for Newcomb, he can't get away with claiming pain prevents him from doing yard work
"I guess I'm going to have to be a normal guy now," he said.
His wife, Pam, said she doesn't notice much difference.
"He's the sweetest Teddy bear there is," she said. "He doesn't talk much when he hurts. He just sucks it up."
Stroh and Newcomb are ready to discard their canes and start getting their teams ready for spring practice.
And, if any metal detectors go off, don't panic. It's only their new hips, functioning as designed.
Eric Sondheimer can be reached at email@example.com.