Belfry Middle School Football
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I’m old. But these coaches are not spring chickens. They are grown men with kids, lives, jobs and families of their own and it is no easy task for them to raise one good boy.
But they are raising 40 of them.
They influence their lives and what they will become as much as their parents do and sometimes, more.
Certainly, they deserve our gratitude for all they do for our boys.
Today I watched a ballgame. That doesn’t sound special maybe to those of you who watch ballgames on a regular basis but to me it was nearly a religious experience.
I started the morning off following the bus. My first time ever following a school bus filled with middle school football players. 40 boys, one that was my own and 39 that I pretty much didn’t know.
Dear God, please wrap your hands about this bus and take it safe to its destination and touch the bodies of each and every precious player on board. Please bring them all home safe to their beds tonight…. I prayed while I drove along the way.
My son is 13 and he is starting at a new school this year. It will be his first public school experience in 6 years. I am nervous for him. He doesn’t know any of the other kids at the new school and he really doesn’t know what to expect. So, when he said he wanted to play football this year I was shocked and figured that he would try it but quit because it would be exceptionally hard.
I was correct about the hard part.
I didn’t realize the amount of laundry that would come with playing football. I didn’t realize the amount of my own personal time that would be consumed with practice. I didn’t realize how stressful it would be to watch him play and worry over his physical ability to endure all that it would require from him.
I didn’t realize how many ice packs and heating pads and soaks in bath salts it would require to help him to adjust to the practices and games.
I certainly didn’t realize how impressed I was going to be with him and the other boys and most especially, with the coaches.
I was sitting in the stands today and I noticed that a few moms from an opposing team where running along the side of the field where the team stands, and they screamed into the game and bossed their kids on every play. I was mortified for their kids. Our coach had just sat down for a moment of rest between the games and he was beside me when I leaned over and asked if it would be okay for our moms to start huddling in and coaching from the sideline. I knew what his answer would be, but I giggled as I asked and listened to his answer.
Everything is harder when you are 13. Everything is more dramatic, more embarrassing and more humiliating.
I am absolutely certain that to my son it feels as if he is an outsider and that he doesn’t have a friend in the world at the moment, so I thought letting him be on the football team would help him to assimilate a bit easier into his new school and life.
I was thinking today while driving behind the bus about how hard this has been for my son and feeling so proud of him for tackling this adventure head on. The entire thing has been horribly hard on him physically. He is mine, but I have to say, he’s a good kid and in spite of the fact that he can hardly climb the steps in our house he has been in so much pain, he gets up and puts his uniform on and goes back to practice every day.
I sat on the bleachers in the heat today for about 5 hours and I drank ten bottles of water while there. I felt so hot and overwhelmed by the heat that I wanted to bend over and vomit once or twice. I couldn’t bring myself to complain because I knew that whatever I was feeling, those 40 boys had to be feeling it much more in their uniforms while running in the game.
I ask myself daily, why do they continue to do this? Why don’t they quit? But I think I figured out the answer.
On the second day of my sons practices he was struggling so hard and was literally vomiting he felt so physically drained. He was pushing as hard as he could, but he just felt so sick that he didn’t think he could go on. I saw him walk over to the coach and say he just couldn’t do it and quit. He started to walk off the field toward the locker room and I admittedly felt some relief at that moment.
As he got to the center of the field I saw Coach Oliver grab him and say Where are you going? My sons motions from across the field translated in my mind as him saying I am so sick and I just can not run one more step. I quit.
I sat there with my eyes stuck to the situation like they had been gorilla glued to the back of my son’s head and played it out in my mind in warp speed how I would comfort my child and support him in his decision that he had tried but failed.
Then I watched as Coach Oliver listened and without a single moment of hesitation he threw up his arm, pointed his finger down the field some 100 yards away and said in a loud enough a voice that I could hear it in the bleachers, GET BACK WITH YOUR TEAM!
I watched as Mike turned and found the strength to push his body into a full stride heading back into the fold of other exhausted players at the far corner of the field.
Danny got more out of my child at that moment than I could have ever gotten. My son thought he was unable to go a single step further, but Danny realized that he had more, and he was not willing to allow him to quit without a fight.
Maybe my child was scared. Maybe he didn’t know what else to do, I don’t know what drove him beyond the sound of Danny’s voice and the pointing of his finger but something about the Coach saying it made him reach inside and find what it took to move.
In the end, I know that these 40 boys are going to look back on their lives and remember the time they spent on the team fondly and they will never forget having the opportunity to say they had the experiences they have had this year.
Later in the evening when Mikey was still beat up and pushing as he struggled to run the field, the team came running out to him they met him more than halfway and cheered for him as he ran. They ran along side of him and clapped and called his name and said you can do it Mike, go, go, go!
I looked over at my husband at that moment and he was sobbing in tears.
For me, that is the greatest thing ever and left me with gratitude and hooked me forever to these 39 other boys and certainly to their coaches.
When I watched the football game today and screamed out for the Belfry Pirates I felt something so deep inside of me. A sense of pride that I can’t hardly explain.
I think about those 40 boys that these coaches are raising, and I am honored to say that one of them belongs to me.
My child doesn’t know much about the game. He will probably never make the greatest football player. Maybe he will never score a touchdown. Most likely, Coach Haywood will never even know who he is. Maybe he will never be good enough to even get into the actual game. But when the season is over he will go away into his life having known what it is like to be on a team.
He will know what it sounds like to feel whipped with exhaustion and running to try to finish and hear the sound of his teammates cheering him on to victory.
What is the single thing that drove them? Who are these 39 Belfry Pirates that they cheered for my son? What about his struggle did they see with their 13-year-old eyes that made them reach out across the field and carry my child with their cries of encouragement to complete this challenge? Why are they clapping for a chubby kid who can’t run that they hardly even know….
My husband says that a football team will take on the personality of their coaches and at this moment I am just so thankful that this team has taken on the personality of theirs.
These men and boys are doing an amazing job and for whatever time I am blessed to say I am a Belfry Pirate I will cheer for them and follow the bus and be filled with pride and gratitude for the influence that they have had not only on my son but on me.