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Football and life…

Football season is here – hooray!  Did you watch the opening games?  How ‘bout my Broncos!  Were they good?  Lucky?  Did Carolina blow it?  All of the above!

I love football (much to my wife’s chagrin).  Which is interesting because the sport of football remains branded in my mind and in my life as the one time I literally gave up and quit.  Yes quit. And worse, I let my Mom down.

Oh, I’ve failed in sports; failed in many things over the years.  That doesn’t make me unique; we all fail from time to time:

Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor. 

Truman Capote

But quitting?  That’s another matter altogether.  It was my junior year in high school.  I originally had planned not to go out for the varsity team.  Coach Fischer had been my coach freshman year; he had just been promoted to varsity head coach.  He had brought my sophomore coach, Coach Trolliet up to the varsity as an assistant.

I was a starter freshman and sophomore years; played offense, defense and special teams; was a co-captain.  I suppose Coach Fischer simply expected me to continue playing junior year.  Problem was, I had a bad experience my sophomore year.

I wanted to play well, but I required more coaching than Coach Trolliet was willing to offer.  I think he expected me to be a stellar player based on my raw, athletic talent alone.  But that was the problem – “raw”.  I never learned techniques; didn’t really understand my positions; was mostly guessing.  And when I “guessed” wrong – well, there came the boom!  I was even benched once because my confusion was viewed as a lack of effort.

Public ridicule, in front of my teammates; in the classroom; or any other setting, was never motivational for me.  Had the opposite effect – it shook my confidence.  And in football (and in all of life’s pursuits) confidence is a critical element to success:

Confidence is an important element in business; it may on occasion make the difference between one man’s success and another’s failure. 

Alfred P. Sloan Jr.

So I simply planned to be a fan my junior year.  Coach Fischer got wind of it and called me at my home; asked me to reconsider; wanted me to play.  I agreed (but I probably wasn’t committed).

The first few practices went well.  I was motivated not to let Coach Fischer down.  Though still raw, I had enough athleticism to run fast; hit hard; catch; kick; stand out. Trouble was Coach Trolliet had different plans.  He thought assigning me to the 3rd string would be motivational.   It wasn’t; I quit.

I didn’t tell anyone ahead of time; kept it to myself.  After practice, I went in to Coach Fischer’s office and said I didn’t want to play anymore. Football wasn’t fun.  I turned in my equipment; left in shame.

The worst was to come – when I arrived home my Mom was surprised to see me; said she expected me to be at football practice.  And then she found out that her son had quit.  Of all the people I have known in my life, my Mom was the one person furthest distanced from “quitting”.

But I learned from that high school experience.  Turns out Coach Fischer and Coach Trolliet were “educators” after all.  And today I can enjoy being a football fan because football taught me the lifelong lesson that no matter how bad circumstances get – quitting is never, ever, ever an option.

GAP

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