This is his second year participating. Last year was his first year while he was still in middle school and now this year, his first year of high school.
He loves it!
Let me say it again, just to make you understand the significance...
For the last many years he has also participated in football. Starting first with flag team football in fifth grade up to just this past fall during the start of his freshman year.
This, too, he once loved.
But the ninth grade football season ended for him in incredible disappointment. I don't think he will participate again next year.
He knew he would never be the star football player. But he practiced hard, had an excellent attitude (we know because the coaches told him), and stepped up his performance from the beginning of the season to the end of the season (we know this, too, because we saw it and again, the coaches told him). He played in most games for a few minutes here and there...but not all games. Some kids were run ragged playing both offense and defense, while a select few spent most of their time on the bench. Yep...it's high school. I get it. The "win" is the goal. Not like last year when the coaches said, "It's about building a team and refining the sport. Winning isn't our top priority."
So this past fall, when the last game of the season approached, the coach told our son...in front of the team, "No matter what...you're playing in the last game."
Our son was excited!
The day of the game came and it was cold and raining. We sat in the bleachers at the opposing team's field, huddled in blankets and rain gear and waited for the game to begin.
There on the sidelines, stood our son.
It was getting close to the end of a really close game and we ended up winning.
Our son never played. We watched as he stood on the sidelines...cold, wet and shivering.
It was a loss...at least in my mind. Not for the kids on the team that played hard to win. It was a loss for the coach. It was a loss for my son.
We got in the car to head home and I was in near tears knowing the disappointment that would be in my son's heart when he rode the bus home with his teammates.
I waited for him to walk through the door so I could hug him and tell him how very proud he makes me. And as my tall, strapping, curly-headed boy walked into the kitchen, tears were brimming in his eyes and he tried hard to hold them back.
He walked over to me and I wrapped my arms around him and told him how much I loved him and how sorry I was he didn't get to play, like he was told he would.
His response was, "No, mom. I'm the one who's sorry. Sorry that you had to sit in the cold and rain for nothing."
I know this isn't what he said, but what I heard was, "I'm sorry I'm nothing."
Unexpectedly, I saw the coach a few weeks later and with as much pleasantry as I could muster, told him how disappointed our son had been after that last game.
Coach wouldn't even look me in the eye. He sat with his head down and said, "Yeah...I really screwed up on that one. I realized it on the way home from the game. I'm sorry. I really blew it."
I told him I wasn't the one he needed to apologize to. That evening our son received an apology via email, encouraging him to keep playing.
He isn't sure, but our son has said several times since then that he doesn't think he really wants to play football again next season. And every time he says it I can just see the disappointment and sadness his is eyes.
Whatever he decides, we will support him either way.
* Note: We're all human. We all make mistakes and have one time or another broken a promise. This football story is just that...a mistake. *
Now let's move up to yesterday's Conference Track and Field Tournament in a neighboring town. The team was dismissed from school late-morning and our son didn't walk through the doors to home until nearly 10 PM last night.
As a team, they did good.
Individually, our son was happy with his 100 meter and high jump.
Did he come close to winning in either or qualifying for state?
But he came home elated over the day's activities!
While he sat in the kitchen devouring six reheated chicken strips and left-over fries from the Dairy Queen that we had all had for dinner earlier and telling us excitedly about the day, he was fumbling with a little piece of paper that he held in his hand.
I asked him what it was.
He said, "Oh...it's just a little inspirational thing."
I asked if I could see it and as he ate another piece of chicken he gladly handed it over to me.
As I read it, tears brimmed in my eyes once again, but for a different reason than after that last football game. That "little inspirational thing" read,
Today: Believe, Envision, Think and Compete!
This is fun day...Glorified recess.
People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.
Do your best and make a memory.
It's a great day to be a TIGER!
You will compete well today!
My husband asked to read it when I was done. He probably wouldn't admit it, but I think he might have gotten a little teary-eyed over it, too.
He asked our son, "So bud...who gave you this?"
With a mouthful of chicken our son replied, "Coach R__."
I understand now why our son enjoys this sport like he does.
Because he's encouraged and the expectation is to "do your best and make a memory."
He has never come home apologizing to us for "having to be there for nothing."
I really hope this is a sport he continues to find himself making many memories in over the next few years.
And I hope Coach R__ and the rest of the track and field coaching staff keep coaching the way they do and that they continue to make those memories happen.
Wishing you a peaceFULLYsimple day.
* After publishing this post I was informed that the "little inspirational thing", as my son called it, is referred to by the track and field coaching staff as a, "zoom-zoom". These small pocket-sized notes are intended to give the athletes some perspective and motivation for the biggest meets of the year. *