Sunday, November 4, 2012

For Love of the Game:The Toughest Lessons We Teach Are About Life Itself


 At the start of the football season the nervous energy was almost electric in its intensity as I tried to maneuver my Firsties down the stairs past the sea of "big boys" blocking our path. "What are y'all doing up here?" I asked of one boy I had taught in first grade but who now stood eye level to me. "We're waiting for Coach. Today's our first practice and we're here to see if we made the team." I smiled at him and wished him good luck. I teased him about being sure to imagine me chasing him down, trying hard to get at his flags when he felt like slowing down.<g>

He and several other boys cracked a smile and let out a small giggle. I was glad I could ease their nervousness,if even just a smidge.  As all 3,973 of my First graders rolled down the stairs, I glanced back at the faces of these boys. The anxious anticipation returned as they watched their Coach climb back up the stairs to meet with them. 

"Will I make the team? Am I good enough? Will I be able to keep up? I've never been a part of anything." The look on the faces of those boys spoke volumes.

The look on their Coach's face? Well it spoke volumes too. Walking up the stairs I heard a long-grumbly sigh as I teased him about "the sweathogs" waiting for him outside his classroom. That sigh hinted at the task he was faced with.

 Have you ever seen the look on Tom Hanks' face in the movie A League of Their Own? 

"There's no crying in baseball!"

 I know that movie is about an all girl's baseball team. But that frustrated look? It was exactly the same! It made me giggle...everyday...a lot!

"Aye, what am I gonna do with these boys?" That's what I read on that face.

 But then, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, weekend after weekend, as these boys trained in the blistering heat, I saw a complete transformation

From initial awkward nervousness, these faces became more focused and determined. Each day, with every practice, with every win and every loss, I got to witness boys growing closer to the men they will eventually become.

 This transformation came under the guidance of a Rock-Star teacher who valued them as human beings. Who did not have the words "Give up, give in or give out" in his vocabulary. 

This teacher eventually had to teach them one of the hardest lessons in life. That unfortunately, adults don't always play fairly. That no matter how hard you have worked, how much everyone knows you deserve to go to the next level, sometimes, well...things are completely out of your control. and circumstances just aren't fair.  They don't make sense. and it's just not right. 

But even though in life there will come a time when the wind will be socked right out of you and all you can feel is let down and anger at some unnamed force, it's exactly at these times that you need to pull yourself back up, dust yourself off and walk with your head held sky high with pride at all that you have accomplished, all you have done, and all that you can and will do, and stick together... as a Team.

For me? What I learned from watching this transformation is that the titles Coach, Teacher, Mentor, Friend are synonymous and that our job does not start and end with the ringing of a school bell.



P.S. I wrote this two years ago not knowing that this same Rock-Sstar Teacher would be teaching all those around him even more hard lessons.
 Thank you InVINCEable for teaching me and all those that love you how to love life to it's fullest and to never give in! Never give up! Never give out!

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