Over the past three years, I have had the privilege of coaching 40 amazing young men in the sport of football. As 4th, 5th & 6th graders, these young men have played in the Minden Optimist Club’s youth football league. They have competed against teams from Minden, Axtell, Gibbon, Franklin, Hildreth, Kenesaw, and Oxford. To date, these young men have compiled an 11-4 record. My current players are preparing to complete their 2010 season. Their final game will be this Sunday in Blue Hill.
In most respects, this has been both the most rewarding and most challenging of my three seasons. We will bring a 2-2 record into this season’s finale. We started this season with only 15 players intending to play 11-man football. Even before the first game, we had one of our young men break his arm. In our very first game, our little squad of 14 faced off against a band of 25 in 90 degree heat. Our boys jumped out to a 12-0 lead, but the heat and extra playing time took its toll as we pushed into the fourth quarter. Even though the boys lost the opener 20 – 12, I could not have been prouder of the character they displayed.
After dropping to 9 man football for the rest of the season, we posted two straight victories despite loosing two more players. Now, with only 12 players, we faced the 500 pound gorilla. Last weeks contest brought a lot of firsts for our team. It was the first time we lost a game past the midway mark of the season, it was our first ever loss on an 8-man field or in a 9 man game, and it was our first loss ever by more than 8 points. We got thrashed!!
There are a lot of life lessons that can be learned from football; perseverance, leadership, teamwork, responsibility, hard-work, fitness and conditioning, strategy, patience, humility, confidence, sportsmanship, manners, and much more. I have always told my players, that our goals were to learn these lessons and to have fun. Those are our priorities. I still prefer to win ball games though.
By far, this team has had to overcome a lot more challenges in their lives than my previous two teams. I would really like to see this group finish the season playing well and building some confidence in themselves as they go int the second half of their last year before moving into junior high school. They deserve it.