Football was a family thing for Circosta

WOODSFIELD — High school football conjures up different memories for different people.

Perhaps, it’s a play or a game. Sometimes, music sparks the mind. Or, it could be the view of the fall sun setting behind a trove of season-splashed leaves.

Donna Sue Circosta has seen almost everything during the past 50 years from her seat at the Monroe Central football field.

Nestled a few rows below the press box, Circosta witnessed a large portion of her husband Jay’s 336 victories during a career that concluded with the Hall of Fame mentor’s retirement in May.

“I didn’t pick it,” said Circosta, Jay’s wife of 52 years, of her spot in the bleachers. “That’s what they gave me and every year they reissued the same seat.”

And, every year, fellow fans — sometimes on both sides — saw “the old cheerleader” come out in her.

“It was a good seat,” Circosta smiled during a conversation from her home, which sits a stone’s throw from the complex.

“I only had a couple of rows behind me and no one usually sat in front of me. The people who sat in front of me knew they were going to be a part of (the game).”

With cowbell in hand, Circosta would cheer on the Seminoles, encouraging each player as if they were one of her own.

In many ways, they were.

With no sons of their own — the Circostas have two daughters — players on the team were seen more as family then boys who walked through their lives for four years.

“A lot of the kids I had in first grade (as a teacher) and, as a result, I watched them all the way through,” Circosta said, choking back emotions. “The boys are dearly loved. All of them. They’re like my kids. We’ve been through some good times and some bad times and that’s what it’s all about.

“It’s not about wins and losses. It’s about the kids. That’s what we’re going to miss the most.”

Donna Sue and Jay have been inseparable ever since their days at Shadyside High. Born 20 days apart, Mrs. Circosta was a grade ahead of her future husband in school.

“I was a cheerleader,” she recalled. “So, I understood the game and what was going on.”

After graduation in 1962, Donna Sue matriculated to what is now Ohio University Eastern where she started pursuing her teaching career. Meanwhile, Jay, who received his diploma in 1963, enrolled at West Liberty targeting his own educational pursuits.

From the start, Donna Sue knew Jay wanted to be a coach.

“It was a given,” she said. “We never talked about it. It was a given. That was his goal.”

The Circostas arrived in Monroe County when Jay accepted an assistant coach position under Bob Butts at Woodsfield High. When Butts left for Union Local a few years later, he ascended to the head job. But in no way did his wife think it would be a half-century ride.

“No,” she said. “When you’re so young and so busy with jobs you just think in terms of one day at a time.”

And, as a coach’s wife, that’s pretty much how you live.

In the beginning, the struggles were few and far between. But as the Circosta’s family grew, and their children got older, more challenges arose.

Circosta doesn’t shy away from the fact there were difficult situations, ones that required both her and Jay to work in tandem to steady the household. But in the end, everyone came together to make it work.

“(Jay) was gone a lot, from July to November, gone a lot and that made it hard,” she said. “But he was always here to back me up in whatever I did.”

The couple worked as a team, but in the father’s absence the mother laid down the law in the house.

“He was always there to support me and to help with (the girls),” she said. “Not always physically, but we always knew he was in support.”

And it was returned tenfold in the form of the support coach received.

“I think it’s a job where the family takes on the job, too,” she said. “Even the kids. Everyone works together to make it happen. But it’s not always easy.”

Circosta sought advice from other wives. One nugget came from Anne Hayes, wife of one Wayne Woodrow Hayes.

“I asked her when I met her ‘How have you handled this all these years?’ And she said “Honey, he’s chasing a football and not a blonde.’ That was really good advice. That, and the person who told me that if you’re happy where you are don’t move.”

The Circostas have never been more at home than in Woodsfield. Jay had offers to leave, but at the end of the day decided what he had there couldn’t be topped anywhere. His wife agreed.

“We were close enough to home where our families were close, and that made it convenient,” Mrs. Circosta pointed out. “It’s just been a good place to live.”

The small-town setting enabled the Circostas to establish a well-oiled routine when it came to gamenights. While it was altered through the years as the couple’s daughters aged, it stayed true to it’s core — family.

The Circostas would have folks over to the home, with food aplenty in their rec room downstairs, which is adorned with memorabilia from Jay’s career. Friends and family would visit and talk about the game or simply share in each other’s company.

She also went to the field about three hours prior to kickoffs to erect the familiar teepee.

The Circosta abode also served as home base for the Monroe Central Football Moms. Donna Sue served as a liaison between he group and Coach and kept the organization’s annual traditions like the Seminole Supper alive for different generations.

Upon realizing that her husband would be stepping down, she transcribed everything she had written on 5×8 notecards onto 8×11 sheets of paper and made a book — the “Football Moms Bible.”

“It has listed in it what needs to be done and when you need to do it,” she said. “Contact numbers … everything imaginable. I think it ended up being 15 or 17 pages long.

“I gave it to the president of the Football Moms, but I still have a copy.”

Yes, coaches wives never stop being that. While their husbands put away their playbooks and whistles, the relationships remain.

Circosta still wears a duplicate of a ring her husband received commemorating his 300th victory. It’s a memento that evokes emotions but, at the same time, serves as a reminder of the good times; times, she said, will never excape her.

“It’s a part of your life and it’s a part of you.”


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