It doesn’t take much in the area of deep recollection, but if only momentary reflection, into shadows of my own past, as I watch the eyes of yet again disappointment brandishing across the faces of these young men. Gazing out from under helmets, looking out in longing to a world that repeatedly and un-relentlessly lets them down. Hopeful faces peering out with almost longing anticipation, ever wishful that maybe this time, this one last time, the miraculous achievement may touch it’s much-needed hand to the tears and efforts that have already fallen so long during this season.
Nine games and nine straight losses, the majority at the not so subtle sting of twenty, thirty point spreads, our tattered band of remnant warriors have had to endure much. What seems, although, to be the greatest challenge is finding the strength to yet again lift a head to hope, especially when a child has been disappointed so many times, the repeated and almost expected welt across the back starts to lose its sting.
Last game of the season, perhaps this one will be a win, some kind of positive end to difficult a season, to mark as victory for the many battles waged, payment placed only upon the bruises and strains young muscles have endured, difficult as it has been to even at least place enough players out there, even to make a show, so look on eyes of hope?
A daunting task at best, economic hardships felt everywhere, but nowhere worse than in the neighborhoods of Trevor Browne High School, resting weary head on battered bed, the hardship of this recession we supposedly are not even having, it shows its dark face so clearly here, in programs such as High school football, expectations fall well below the concerns of everyday worries. Long canceled is any recreational feeder program; Pop Warner, club football, all long these disappeared from neighborhood choices, discarded because of lack of interest in the parents, but mostly fund’s being needed so much more desperately in other places.
Marching in on the backside of a ruined and abandoned program, a new leader is called. Having to wallow through shadows of coaches and institution’s of old, its remnant that no longer had concerned themselves with growth and learning, just the passing team’s through, like the few student’s who have the greatest challenges and hardships at home, being passed from one class to another, someone else’s problem pushed aside, discarded, so was the attitudes of nearly all observing.
But the question now is how to pass this spirit on to the boys, that is the challenge? It would not be easy, in a social environment where cut’s and concerns are much graver than to worry about football, families struggling just to pay rent and feed their family, abandonment, and malcontent running rampant, so easy is it to just give up when there is no end is in sight. Such an environment was it, abandonment and discouragement were felt and seen in the eyes of all around including parents and faculty, so great was the wall to climb, trying to bring leadership spirit and hope into the eyes of these boys.
A season starts, and a percentage of the boys must stand on sidelines without even being able to get helmets, because a school district, with the largest population in the state, must function on a budget one-tenth of that of rival schools in better economic locations. A third of a team cannot qualify due to scholastic limitation’s, and while there are many of the most concerning teacher’s and administrators willing to do anything to help these student’s, a general air hover’s over the environment, a subtle voice; “what does it matter, just give up!”
But there is another voice, a coaches voice, one of encouragement, life, strength, goodness; “don’t give up son, your brother needs you, your school needs you, your team, we need your strength, your youth, to make exhibition of the greatness we know you have inside.” The boy’s become men, learn what it means to lead, leading on a team with their brothers, lead themselves into battlefields of manhood, becoming leaders in the environment, how can they not be seen as leaders in the school by others, especially the ones no one knows are looking. A few survive to the end of the season, to taste the sweet morsels of maybe a Kingly victory.
I come out of my momentary reflections seeing the tail end of our tenth game, yet again another loss, this time my mind wraps my own heart around thoughts that spoken only moments before into ear. For the second weekend in a row, referees unsolicited and without reason, walk up and compliment me as to how courteous and well mannered our boys are, no, that they are the “most” well mannered and courteous players they have seen all year from any team!
I have seen in my short experience this season, many examples of opposing teams taunting our boys for their our own lack of experience and skill, and our boys just taking it and not answering back in any way.
Lack of experience and skill?
What would one expect, the majority of our team being Juniors even Sophomores, just to have enough players to put a team on the field. As for the majority of the ones who are out there, most have never played in any organized football before. Not to mention almost every player out there, bruised and battered from punishments handed them from their more experienced opponents, while picking up double and triple playing assignment.
I doubt in my own past, I would have taken such ridicule with a closed lip.
End of the game, and yet again a loss, not a single win this season, but what did I see? No hanging heads, no murmuring, no finger pointing, just a group of young men huddled together in the end zone for one last team talk.
Well now, that is a point I would like to spend a moment describing.
I stand there at the end of the game and watch as the young men gather together putting a final touch on the season. One by one, the few Seniors that have actually remained on the team, step up and express in words their feelings, they convey with statements of gratitude and thanksgiving their appreciation to the majority, who were younger players, have stood by and finished the year even through loss after loss.
I see Senior players struggling through emotions to express care and compassion for the gift they have received this year, a gift of a team, a gift of commitment, a gift of sacrifice, a gift of brotherhood, a gift of love.
I see younger men brought to tears as they hear words of appreciation and brotherhood spoken to them by men, teammates they have grown to respect and depend upon.
I see coaches quivering to hold back tears as they watch on in pride, for boys they felt proud to have known.
One by one the short speeches, the testimonies, the gifts of words are all presented like a feast of Kings. Why? Because it is a feast of Kings.
I hear one boy, explain how his experience and season has made him examine his own life, and brought to the realization that in the process “He has become a man”. Not just in word, but in spirit, with all the sense of responsibility, maturity, compassion, and pride that goes in with that realization.
Underclassmen step up and speak, giving thanks for all they have learned and experienced, thanking Seniors, friends, brothers, for sacrifice and faithfulness.
Coaches relate to the bond they have felt develop with the players, a Father and Son bond, with the pride a Father has for a son.
And while I know about as much about football as the least of the players on this team, when it comes to knowing about the love a Father has for a Son, in that area, I am an experienced expert.
Let me tell you what The Father saw;
I see before me Sons who have conducted themselves with class and character, giving everything they have week in and week out, especially when the task was insurmountable!
I see boys becoming men, and as a Father, I feel pride to have called any of them Son! A pride in seeing My Son grow.
I hear people on the sideline commenting on how teams of old were nothing short of thugs or ghetto gangs, but these men, this year are the most disciplined and courteous they have seen all year, and as a Father, I am so Proud.
I see an almost daily growth in skill, and what was a band of inexperienced High School boys at the beginning of the year who wanted to maybe play football, became a team of men who were a skilled High School Varsity football team, as a Father it brings a smile to my face.
I see players helping each other, lifting one another up, cheering when a teammate explodes in a brilliant performance, no jealousy, no envy, just a sense of happiness in a brother being able to succeed. Every Father wants his boy to love his brother, that is a sign of a man! I cheer along with them!
As a Father I watch, as my son runs with strength and character across the field, funny, hard to pick him out, they all look the same!
The greatest gift a Father can give his son is a few tidbits of knowledge from his own vault of mistakes, then let him go to experience life himself. How difficult is it for the Father to stand back and hope, maybe pray, that his son takes these and makes his own wise decisions, carves out a life as a man, a leader, one that is filled with goodness and character, maybe holding fast to some of the virtues he may have also received along the way.
Every Father wants his son to become a leader; in himself, with his friends, his community, maybe someday his wife and his own children. It is then The Son becomes a reflection of The Father. And when it actually happens tears of joy are collected like diamonds and held forever in the chest of The Fathers memory.
I saw a group of boys become a team of leaders, men, Trevor Browne Varsity Football Players. Next year the team will have experience under their belt, and it will be payback time!
As a Father, and speaking for The Father, and humbly with His permission, I will say zero and ten, in this case, translates into a winning season, no these boys, won the championship!
They won in every area that was important!
When Zero and Ten equals a Championship.
By Peter Colla Assistant Varsity Coach Trevor G. Browne High School Strength and Conditioning
“Thank You Lord for the many blessing You have given me, as a father and a son”