Last Saturday my son Jonathan and his football team played their first play-off game. These boys are all 6th graders and have worked incredibly hard to get to this point in the season. What is unique about this team, and why I chose to write about them this morning, is the heart inside each and every one of them. Let me explain…
This is my son’s first year playing football…and we started him in tackle no less. Jonathan always excelled in the classroom but the football field was a whole different story. We thought he could use a challenge. Jon went through conditioning during the scorching heat without complaint. When it came time to meet his coach and team mates, many of them were strangers. Not only was Jonathan starting a new school (our 6th graders go to the Jr. High) he was playing a game he had only ever watched on TV. At first Jonathan was terrible, of course. Dropping passes and running laps became the usual practice for him…but Jon’s team mates didn’t turn on him. They didn’t make fun of him or bully him…instead they coached him. These boys rallied around my son, and eachother, and carried each other to the playoffs. At practices I’d hear “Great tackle J.W.” or “You got it, big guy!” Never once did I hear these boys bring each other down.
As on any sports team, this team also had it’s star players. One in particular, Austin Wood, is the best little receiver I’ve ever seen! He’s quick, he pays attention to the game, but most of all at the ripe age of 12 this young man is humble…humble beyond belief. I can’t tell you how many touchdowns he scored or how many interceptions he had during the season, but I can tell you that I never heard that young man brag once. And he had plenty of reason to brag! Cooper Jackson is another one. This boy, during a game where our team was beating the other team by a large margin, intercepted a pass and had every opportunity to run the ball back for yet another touchdown at the end of the game. What did he do? He ran for a bit and then slid and downed the ball. He chose to not run up the score on the other team…at the age of 12! Now that’s sportsmanship!
The boys have a coach unlike any I have seen before in little boy’s football. Coach Bubba is great! While he’s still a coach and still wants to win games, what Coach Bubba understands that many other coaches don’t get is that he has an awesome opportunity to impact these boy’s lives. How he impacts it, positively or negatively is up to him. And Coach takes this responsibility very seriously. Coach Bubba is a loud guy. He can yell and scream with the best of them. But something my husband and I both commented on is Coach is just as loud when he’s praising the boys as he is when he’s correcting them. He’s never used demeaning language to coach, that’s not his style. There is just a respect between Coach Bubba and his team the likes of which I have never seen before. They’re a family, and I am grateful that my son had this experience as his first playing football. These boys have learned life lessons having Coach Bubba as their coach…and the other coaches as well. As a coaching staff they have nurtured our young boys. I’ve seen so much growth on and off the field…it’s refreshing to see in today’s world.
The other day my son hurt his ankle at a game. He was out for a while and the game was pretty tight. Jon was sitting on the bench and one of his team mates came up and said “Ya gonna be alright J.W.? Ya doin’ okay there big guy?” It was so sweet that that young man thought enough of his team mate to come and check on him. I see so much negativity on the field at these games…parents hollering cuss words at their kids and encouraging them to “get revenge” on the opposing team; losing teams throwing helmets and not shaking hands at the end of the game. Not our boys. Our boys are leaders; they know how to lead by example, how to be humble, and how to bring others up not kick them down. I’m so proud of each and every one of these boys, and I can’t wait to see what wonderful young men they grow up to become! This world needs more Coach Bubbas. I know this group of boys will never forget him.
Every day we have countless opportunities to show who we really are through our actions. Robert C. Edwards says “You are only who you are when no one is looking.” As parents, we know someone is always looking…and they’re usually 2-foot-talls who imitate our every move. Today I’m going to take a lesson from the Coach Bubba play book and be more encouraging, to build little people up and not break them down. I’m going to lead by example, even when I think no one is looking. I have an awesome opportunity today and every day to make a positive, lasting impression on my children. Care to join me?
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