When I was a senior in high school, our football team had a lot of great talent but never really found success as a team, all the way back to middle school. Our senior year, we had an all-state running back, huge tight end getting recruited for division 1 basketball and football, as well as many other athletes all over the field. However, we could never mesh as a team.
We had a rough year. Ended the season 1-8, with our only win coming on Senior Night. Our all-state running back broke his foot and was out the first 6 games of the season. Our coach got West Nile Virus and missed 5 games. We struggled to find our identity all year. We tried every type of offense you could think of. But with constant injuries, a missing head coach and some assistants trying to pick up the slack, we had no identity and it was a lost season as we continued to lose, and lose big. We had a couple close ones, but never got over the hump, until game number 8.
I say all of this to share a big lesson I learned in my life. We were at one of the lowest of lows of the season. Just lost big to a great team, and had to play another ranked team the following week. It was tough sledding. We got lax as a team, joked around a lot, got lazy and did not give focus to what we were doing. We spent many hours preparing for this season in the weight room, practices, film and conditioning, and all of that was becoming pointless as we had our season slip out of our hands and we got lazy.
It was obvious to me that we gave up. We gave up on hope, on ourselves and our teammates. We now were just playing for “fun”. Which can be a great thing, but our attitudes were not there to make it fun. It was a struggle, going to practice each day, making the extra effort, it all seemed pointless.
One week, right before a game against a top 5 team, we were doing our standard conditioning after practice. This was always our least favorite part, but vital to success in any sport. My attitude this practice was not good. I just realized how I had given up on the season and how my teammates were doing the same thing. I love football and I hate not giving my best effort. I was angry because I gave up, my friends gave up, my team gave up and my coaches gave up. Then came conditioning, and our coaches decided we did not have to do all of the standard conditioning.
I remember standing there, out of breath still, but wondering why. I hate running, but I hate losing more. Why are we not finishing our sprints? Did the coaches give up on us too? Is this just a lost cause? What is the point of coming out here, sweating and getting hurt everyday? Do the others feel the same way? I stood there as everyone went back into the locker room. Still wondering why…
Today, one of my biggest regrets in life is not saying something in that moment. I settled for mediocre (or in our case, pitiful) in my life. That is not what I was made for. That is not what I strive for. I get so frustrated when I think back to that time and realize that I kept my mouth shut at a very important moment in a lot of young men’s life. When the going got tough, quit. That is what I agreed to that day, and it bothers me today.
I wish I would have raised my voice and yelled at my coach and team to not give up and to push us even harder. Remind you, I hate running, and sprints make it worse. But I was so bothered with the settling and giving up I was prepared to do those things in order to improve myself. I wish I could go back, challenge myself and my teammates. Things probably would not have turned out differently for us in the win column, but it would have been a lesson to never forget for these 15-18 year olds.
God created us for greatness, but greatness is always accompanied by hard work and determination. They go hand in hand. You cannot have greatness without sacrifice through hard work. I know I can’t go back to that day, but what I can do is take that lesson with me for the rest of my life.
Don’t give up and don’t let others give up on you.