It seems everyone I am surrounded by is looking for inspiration these days. I am surrounded by people in the workforce who have graduated, at a minimum, from the high school level. I would venture to say most of these older people are searching for something. I find this search fascinating. What happens to a person once they leave school? Most kids I knew had dreams and aspirations to achieve so many things once they graduated. Do you remember your dreams, your aspirations as a teenager? Did you fulfill them? Or do you find yourself searching for inspiration to start one of your dreams?
So I ask people, “What is your passion?” Most people do not know what their passion is. And the people who do know their passion, do not pursue it. This puzzled me as to why? What happened to their pursuit? Was it left behind at high school? College? Their parent’s house?
I realized all of this while coaching football this year for Fauquier High School. I was a head JV football coach. At the JV level, I teach the kids to
Bond as a team: The sum of the parts is greater than the parts themselves.
To understand the definition of commitment.
To understand the concept of not giving up.
Every high school is full of kids who can learn the team’s offense and defense. But few teams have kids who are committed to the program, to forming a team relationship and having the attitude of never quitting no matter what the circumstance dictates. The teams that exhibit these traits always have a chance to win no matter what their talent level. Not only are these traits indicative of a successful season but also carry over into life. I try to teach each player there is life after football; football will comprise only a small portion of your life. So if my players exhibit the traits described above in everything they try, they will be very successful.
This year was a special year for the JV football team. I had a great group of kids who really came together as a team. Part of the reason was due to one individual named Austin Head. He is a running back (or RB – a person who runs the ball on offense) and listed as 5 feet tall, 100 lbs. By far he is our smallest guy (he was so small, he had to use two hands to hold the football). He never missed a practice, never talked back to the coaches, never asked about playing time. Austin was 3rd string and would not get much playing time and knew this. But he loved playing football so much, that if he could only play by coming to practice, then that’s what he would do. He knew he was too small to play, but told me he did not want to have any preferential treatment because of his size. So I treated him like any other player.
Since he was 3rd string RB, it meant he ran the ball against our scout team (first string defense). He never hesitated to run right at our first string defense, and against my recommendation; I told him to dive down on the ground when he got near them because I was afraid he would get hurt. He would consistently run straight at guys who were 6 foot tall and 200 lbs, literally twice his size. Our defense would feel bad after some plays, but Austin would always get up and walk back to the huddle and continue on. During many practices, we would run drills with the Varsity players (all Running Backs would perform the same drills together). Most drills involved tackling the other Running Backs. He would jump in front of other guys and call out the 1st string Varsity players. Quickly, the varsity guys were asking me, who is this guy? He never really got the best of them, quite the contrary; they usually got the best of him. I could not believe his resolve and was inspired by his love of the game.
During the season I made sure to play everyone each game at least one play. So Austin did not get much playing time to say the least. He maybe got a couple of plays at most. But it did not matter to him. He got his fun in during practice.
Our last game of the year pitted us against our archrival. We had many players injured who could not play so in our pre-game meeting, I declared Austin our team captain in order to inspire the team. The team really got pumped up. Then I learned one hour before the game, our starting Running Back could not play due to an injury. Now I needed to name a starting RB (we were already missing several RBs due to injury). So when we went through our pre-game walk through, I inserted Austin into the starting line-up. The entire team got fired up. Austin could not believe he would actually play in a game, but would start.
The first play of the game our player gets tackled very hard by the opposing team. The next play is the same result. It is obvious to me and the rest of the coaches weare too small and slow to keep up with the opposing team. We could be in for a long night. However, the next play changed the game, we scored a Touchdown on a long run. Austin played the entire game, catching passes, carrying the ball, blocking for our other running backs and even scoring his first ever Touchdown. We won the game 46 to 6.
After the game I spoke to the opposing coach. He could not believe his team lost (their worst loss of the season). I could not believe we won (our best game of the season). It was truly a magical game and I truly believe it had mostly to do with Austin inspiring our team. Every time he caught a pass or ran the ball, our team gave it a little extra. Austin Head loves the game of football. This love is what drove him to survive each practice, each drill, each hit. This love is what made him successful in his only (real) action during a game. His love taught me, reminded me, of my aspirations as a teenager. He inspired us all during our last game and touched me forever. Austin may have played his last game (the Varsity team cuts players) at the high school level, but because of his desire, commitment and team play, he will always remember scoring that touchdown and winning his last game. I know he is prepared to successfully continue his life after football and continue to strive for his dreams.
Now the question is, are you?
Copyright © 2000 by Joe Maurelli
This heartwarming and inspiring story was submitted by Joe Maurelli, a football coach at Fauquier High School. Joe: MaurelliJF@NAVSEA.NAVY.MIL