One person's thoughts may change the world
For the young man running the football, it has been a challenging season. The most challenging one of his whole life. The first season of compounded challenges, for him, as well as for me. We both went through it together, as we have both gone through some championship seasons. The season started out with a positive note, he made the varsity team as a ninth grader, which was no easy feat. At first, I didn’t know what to think, was he that good, or was the team that bad that they needed a freshman to not only make the varsity team, but get significant playing time ( starting tailback ). Compounding that, he also started his first year of high school. I was proud of him, but I had my doubts as well. “Will he be able to take the pounding of the Catholic League?”, I asked myself. I wasn’t worried about his mental state; he had already played 6 seasons of little league football. His football IQ is very high. I was worried about how he has to convert and change his game, a lot. First, there was the conversion from linebacker to defensive back, a huge transformation for him.
He struggled with it at first. He has had the mindset of a linebacker since his first day of football. He learned how to look for the run, and not let anyone past him. Now suddenly, he has to change, out on an island, backing up and ready to anticipate a pass. It was a different type of football for him, he’s just not big enough to play linebacker. He started at tailback, he played on kickoff, kick receiving, punt team. This season, he learned one of the most important things in life… he learned to adapt. The second thing was the season. It was grueling at times. It was one tough loss after another. I wasn’t use to coaching under such conditions. I would like to say I was good at getting kids motivated, and ready to go out and play an inspired game. But I forgot one thing, this was high school football. High school football is won in the off-season, in the weight room. And unfortunately, many of the kids he was playing with didn’t take it seriously enough. But he did. Some didn’t work hard in the off-season, and it showed. And more importantly I had to “learn” to coach with no prospects of making the playoffs, or a winning season. Somehow, these young men found it within themselves to get back out there on the field after a loss, and practice as hard as they could. They were real troopers. Yet, this young man worked hard in the off-season, not quite knowing why I pushed him so hard at first. It was tough, hitting those weights when he could have doing something else.
But, with every season, I learn something. Sometimes something little, sometimes something big. Courage was one thing many of these kids had no grasp of. They liked playing football because it’s fun. Well they had a rude awakening. At this level it’s not always that fun. It’s more of a challenge, an interesting challenge, but a challenge. And, at times, you’re going against opponents that have a different motive than you do. The school he attends is a college prep school so most are going to college. The kids they play against may be playing for a scholarship. They may be playing for many other things. But trust me, it’s not because it’s fun. So another lesson learned to some members of his team,” there is someone out there ready to take your lunch money”. I have always pointed this out to him with one of my favorite saying, “Always remember, there is someone, somewhere out there working out, just like you, at times alone, but motivated, and trying to be better than you”. He knows this statement very well.
After eight games, his team was 2-6. Trust me I have never played or coached a team with that kind of record. But, the reality is, they didn’t really know how close they were to being a winning program. And that’s where I need to learn to be a better coach, and person. At times in life, you don’t know how close you are to succeeding, but, yet, you roll around in the despair of what you may think is failure. Sometimes, a defeat helps bring you to a point of the victory you have had all the time, but it may have been too cloudy around you to see it. Most victories are claimed after a defeat, one which takes you to a point of nowhere to go, but up. Accepting failure or tolerating it is not an option, in football or in life. Defeat is easy, but victory is something you have to work for.
This leads me to a victory for him, pictured above. The little running back that could. In the last game of the season, his team won. He had his best game. He made several key blocks that opened it up for the senior running back to have several long runs. Then, the biggest play of his season occurred, “white right 45”. This play was huge for several reasons. First, it was a play that had not been called all season. We had never run it in practice. It wasn’t in the playbook. When the head coach called the play, I was on the head phones in the press box saying, “Coach that play is not in the script”. But he called the play any. Well, the young man did what I knew what he has always done, did his job well. He adapted and prevailed. He had his longest run of the season, bursting through the hole,
past the linebackers and ran for a good 35 yards! That long run changed his whole season, his whole perspective, and also changed mine. He did something he knew he could do, and did what he had been doing all season long, which was work hard, execute, persevere, play hard on every single down. And that’s a life lesson as well. For me the life lesson held true, never quite, never give up, stand your ground, give it all you have, and most importantly, believe in yourself. And he did. And so have I. I am so proud of him. And that is one of the many reasons why I love him so much.