EAST LAKE — Jason Messamore sat in the middle of his family room floor Tuesday afternoon and watched as his 3-year-old son, Riley, and 9-month-old daughter, Ella, burn the energy that only children have.
Riley wanted to show off his toy car and truck collection and Ella toyed with walking before flopping back to the floor and crawling with haste to one of her big brother's cars.
That's Messamore's day.
A stay-at-home father, Messamore is feeding the children, taking them to the park, doing laundry and keeping the house clean before a sitter pops in briefly so he can dash off to an East Lake High football practice. Messamore, 35, is the receivers and special teams coach.
"The (players) are always laughing at me because I'm always full of energy when I get to practice," Messamore said. "I tell them, 'I can't wait to come see you guys, I've been inside all day with kids.' "
Messamore was a coach for Clearwater Central Catholic from 2004 until last May. He applied for the head coaching job at the school but didn't get it. At the same time, he and his wife, Kate, who is pregnant with their third child, were discussing having someone stay home.
"We talked about it and if my wife was going to get a good job as a pharmacist, one of us would stay home and raise the kids instead of sending them to day care," Messamore said. "Me being a teacher, I don't mind staying home."
Messamore has an elementary education degree from Illinois State University. He has taught everything from second to 12th grade. In Illinois, he was a head football coach for four years at Heyworth High School.
Kate Messamore is from Palm Harbor and graduated from East Lake High. The couple moved to Florida, so Kate could attend the University of Florida's pharmacy school.
"I'm a very competitive person and being home with the little ones, I don't get any kind of competitive juices going," Messamore said. "But I have football practice. I just love teaching. My thing has always been to try and teach the players to be better fathers, husband, sons and trying to relate football to the game of life."
Messamore is not alone in deciding to be the spouse to stay home with the children. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 158,000 stay-at-home fathers and 5.1 million stay-at-home mothers in 2009. The number of stay-at-home dads is up from about 100,000 in 2002, according to the Census Bureau.
"My mom was a stay-at-home mom and I have a lot of respect for her now," Messamore said. "All my friends say they wish they were a stay-at-home dad. I say, 'Be careful what you wish for.'
"Talking with all the moms at the park and they are all saying the same thing, 'You never get anything done around the house.'
"You always feel like there is something to do. At a regular job, you have deadlines, the workday ends. But you always have laundry, meals, dishes piling up. There is always something."
Messamore is one of nine assistant football coaches at East Lake. Head coach Bob Hudson said before hiring, he talks about a potential coach's life beyond the gridiron.
"We are pretty close-knit and philosophically we are on the same page as to how the guys should be treated and the lessons that we try to reinforce," Hudson said. "Before I hire someone, the first hour we talk and don't even mention football.
"I want to know the things they believe in and the importance they put on educating young men. We are teachers on the field. We just have the role of a quote-unquote coach."
Tyler Higbee, 17, is a senior receiver on the team. He said Messamore is a smart coach with a lot of energy.
"When he comes out to practice, he's the guy with the most fire in him," Higbee said. "He's jumping around, just a lot of energy at practice. And he gives some of the best pump-you-up speeches. He gets the blood going."
Coaching football requires a lot of energy, but so does staying at home with the children. It's a job that Messamore takes seriously.
"If my wife is going to work all day long, she should come home to a clean house, the laundry being done," Messamore said. "Those are just things she doesn't have to worry about. And being pregnant and on her feet all day long, I don't want her to have to worry about anything."
Contact Demorris A. Lee at email@example.com or (727) 445-4174