November 25, 2013: Football 101

Ben and Alex Kramer celebrating their state championship win with the crowd
I am just the mom. Ben shakes his head when I confuse football positions and show weakness on the "X's and O's". He believes I don't know much about the game. In all actuality, I know a lot.

While I continue to broaden my tactical understanding, I am in tune to the truly important aspects of football. Never underestimate the observations of an intuitive mother. What I see are life lessons.

I'm a storyteller by nature. So I am going to tell the story of two young men with two very different football experiences. The stories are deeper than football with valuable lessons that extend beyond the field.

Both players have just finished their high school careers. But their experiences were markedly different. Although their goals to excel seemed aligned, the deeper goals were not.

Boy #1:
This boy chased his dream of being a football star. He was told at a young age that he would be the next John Elway and he believed it. His family wanted this for him and spared no expense or effort in pursuing his dream.

Boy #1 changed schools during his high school years to better his chances to be a star. An apartment was rented and lies were told to follow a coach to whom the boy had gained favoritism. The result was Boy #1 sitting out a full season. Many lessons could have been learned from this wasted year. Instead his reaction was resentment.

Chasing his dreams came at a price. Expensive trainers were hired to boost the boy's individual goals. The high school weight room was beneath him. Boy #1 didn't help pay expenses nor had any desire to be a cohesive member of the team.

His mindset was on what others, family and teammates, could do to support him; instead of how he could contribute to his family and team. Decisions centered on the pursuit of the boy's football dreams and the boy.

Boy #1 ended his career with no championship and a very mediocre high school football career. His family's financial and stressful efforts were a disregarded burden. This young man displayed self-centeredness; both on and off the field. He now blames others for his failures and is bitter.

Boy #2:
This boy loved the game of football. He played for his school and worked his way up the ranks; year by year. He only gained a starting spot his last year of high school. There were entire seasons where he watched most games from the sidelines. But he never missed a practice. He never quit. He didn't complain that he deserved better. Boy #2 earned his spot one practice at a time.

Boy #2 worked hard and adored his teammates. They played with each other and for each other. It wasn't about him. It was about the teammate who lost his mother to cancer last summer. It was about the teammate who suffered a career ending injury at the peak of his high school career. With compassion, they forged forward. A band of brothers.

Game by game, year by year, this boy and his team progressed to greatness. No egos were allowed with humble coaches and Christian values injected into every facet of their play.

Watching these boys run the defense was like watching synchronized swimming. They excelled with no individual standout. And in the end, they were the best. Last night this boy's team won the State Championship. They played with heart and compassion; on and off the field. And they will never forget the feeling of accomplishment and joy they experienced together.

Football 101 (from this mom's perspective):
Although I sympathize with Boy #1's ultimate fate, it wasn't his football losses that make my heart heavy. This boy lost out on things much greater than wins and a chance to be a star.

You can hire the best NFL trainers or seek out teams with the seemingly most talented coaches; but at the end of the day, it comes down to heart. Football is a team sport. Success on the field comes from the passion of a group of selfless warriors.

Playing with heart can't be scripted or learned. It can't be bought and paid for, nor can it be entitled. And it doesn't come easily. A successful team is fought for and protected.

I do have a message to future football star want-a-bees.

Boys, always be grateful to your coaches for their tireless efforts. Expect nothing outside the rewards you reap from hard work and know there are many other hard-working players just as good as you. Your position is one of eleven. No matter how superior your personal abilities, unless you are in harmony with that chorus of players around you; there is no stellar performance.

Thank your family for their continuous support and know that they have lives outside of you. You likely have siblings who are due attention during football season as well. Spread the love and know that others make sacrifices for you every day. Football is demanding past the field.

Savor your wins with your teammates. Know and appreciate your chorus of comrades who block to clear your path and always have your back.

Lastly, have fun. At the end of the day, it's a game and it's high school. Sorry, but you're really not that big of a deal. Creating school history as a team and knowing that collectively you have achieved great things; yes, that is bliss. Enjoy it. Life after high school football will be much different than the glory of today. You will have to grow up. Football will soon be an afterthought.

In the end, this story of a boy #2 really isn't about the boy. It's about any one of the boys who played for this team. And playing for a team has much greater rewards than playing for yourself.

So that's my story. Just some observations from the grandstands. In my opinion, X's and O's are overrated. Life lessons last forever.


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