For the last four years, I have spent my Sunday afternoons in the fall watching young boys play football. It has been my labor of love. They started as 10 and 11 year old boys in the 5th grade and now they have become 13 and 14 year old young men approaching high school. Some of the faces have changed, their voices have become deeper, they certainly are taller; however the constant that I am reminded of is their absolute love of the sport.
Football is the ultimate team sport. Yes, there are the few "glory" positions. The ones who throw the ball and the ones who make the touchdowns, but without the guys on the offense line blocking, none of it would happen. Those guys are my heroes. Week in and week out, they are the steadfast and the proud. Nothing makes my heart sing more than hearing the sound of a great block. Don't get me wrong, I love watching a terrific run or fantastic catch too.
I love the defense! The most exciting games are the ones that are won by strong defensive battles. Again, I adore the sound of crunching pads as the d-line attacks the opposing team's offensive line. My favorite part is when the quarterback is sacked or the defense can stop a team on fourth down with only inches to go. What I love to watch most is the genuine happiness on the faces of the players when the play is executed exactly the way it was intended.
I love the coach! I have watched this man grow into a role he was meant to play. His genuine love for this game comes through each and every time he takes the field with his players. He has nurtured this team from the start and is finally getting the season team's dream of. I've watched him worry over comments made by unrelenting parents. I've witnessed countless hours spent planning with his staff. I've listened to the numerous phone calls he's had to endure from parents who's only concern is "their son" while he has to think about what's best for "the entire team." I feel his joy with every victory and his sorrow with each loss.
So, as this final season winds down, it is with a glad heart that I report we are currently undefeated with one more game to go. We have secured our spot in the championship game. This is so gratifying to watch, as these same boys a year ago, lost every league game they played. We refer to that time as our character building year. What a difference a year makes. Those who stayed will be champions. They certainly deserve it!
Next year's fall will certainly be different. I'll miss these boys, but I look forward to the men they'll become. I'll cheer for each and everyone of them regardless of the high school jersey they will wear. I thank them for the fun and most especially, for the love.