Don Somma of Bluffton has spent the better part of 67 years trying not to act like a chicken with his head cut off.
That's hard when you're a high school football coach resuscitating eight programs, running several businesses simultaneously, and trying to be a good husband and father.
"My biggest enemy in life was time," says Somma, whose new book, "Winning Jersey Style," tells why he has treated each day like a practice schedule, with every second planned.
He starts by telling the story of his grandfather. He "put his hard 50 in every week" as a boilermaker in central New Jersey, then relished 48 weekend hours with family, church and the Sons of Italy lodge.
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Every Saturday, Grandpop called the chickens in Italian, and one of them would become Sunday dinner. This made a big impression on young Don because the last one to come when called always got its neck wrung.
Somma won a scholarship to play defensive line for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Homesick and unhappy that he wasn't an instant star, Somma was about to go home when another stepping stone to success was laid in his path.
It came from a former all-Atlantic Coast Conference player at Carolina who was coaching the freshmen while going to law school. It was Jim Moss, now one of Beaufort County's leading attorneys. Moss told the kid: "Stop worrying. Stay eligible. Go to class and give your personal best every practice, every drill and you will get noticed."
Somma listened. He went on to become all-ACC and co-captain of the 1967 Gamecocks team.
When he became a coach, Somma called Moss' advice "competing against yourself." It's a competition not limited to Friday night: Be able to look yourself in the mirror knowing you did your best every time, every hour of every day. He adopted direct rewards, and direct punishment, which he learned from his father. "Those old-timers didn't count to three, if you know what I mean," he says.
But most of all, what Somma learned is that every team, individual and business needs a game plan that everyone buys into -- administrators, teachers, coaches, players and parents. "It's not rocket science," Somma says. "If everyone does those things, it's a beautiful journey."
He retired to Colleton River Plantation nine years ago -- a far cry from the inner-city football lights of Elizabeth and Irvington in New Jersey.
In the Lowcountry, Somma admires the teamwork he sees at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. "No one questions the game plan," he says. Proceeds from his book will benefit the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation.
Proceeds also will benefit the Bluffton High School Bobcats, where Somma volunteers in several capacities for head football coach Ken Cribb. One duty is working with a middle school team under coach Keith Hamilton. Somma's grandson is on the team, but the team member to impress him the most was the water boy -- always working hard, doing his best, competing against himself, even when nobody noticed.
Somma says it brought him full circle, like watching his grandfather wring the neck of the lazy chicken.
"I learned from a young kid as an old man," he said.