What I Learned From High School Athletes
Life is a constant education. There is always a lesson to learn, if you're open to receive it.
Covering high school football, running this website and interacting with the players in person and on Twitter rekindled something in my psyche this season. High school football breeds a certain brand of drive and brotherhood that you can't quite capture anywhere else. I went into the year with an open mind, and the young athletes of Acadiana filled it back up with wonders.
This isn't an itemized list or a slideshow to click through. That would be far too easy. If there's anything I learned from the high school athletes, it's this: if you want success, you have to work for it.
When I played the game, I took some of the lessons it taught me for granted. If you want to take the easy way out, you end up on a road to mediocrity.
I speak from experience. The teams I played for were bad football teams. We didn't practice well, so we didn't play well. There were arguments in the locker room. Players made fun of the coaches behind their backs and generally cut up. Our lax approach brought us poor results, and I didn't really understand it at the time. Watching excellence in practice this season, it made me realize I completely missed out on life's education.
Winning teams have unity. The same rule applies to businesses and other adult endeavors. Seeing an entire group of young men work toward one goal, with one mind, is a human beauty.
It's honestly staggering, and a little inspiring, when you put their achievements in perspective. In the formative years of their lives, these athletes enlist into a brotherhood. Together, they forgo some of life's fruits to pursue another, riper delicacy much farther up in the tree. Where does that passion go as we grow older?
The problem is, life likes to interfere with our pursuit of passion. Often and unfortunately, dreams get washed away in practicality. It's hard for the artist to sell paintings when he's starving, and bills have a way of shoving passions to the side. For these kids, football is life. There is no disharmony in their world.
Their passion and their profession is one and the same. Every day, they wake up and work toward their dream. They wake up and fall asleep with a shared image in their mind. If they're lucky, they forge a bond that never breaks and create memories to share with their own children.
Watching the way they worked, without any pay or promise of reward, stirred my professional pride. If you're not actively pursuing your dream, then you might be sleeping.
These athletes pour their hearts into the game of football. There's a beauty to both sides of the game, winning and losing. Maybe it took me reaching adulthood to realize it.
Losing hurts. It's one of the main reasons why people stop trying. Why apply for a job you might not receive? If you're comfortable where you are, it's hard to get where only the brave reach. Developing a tolerance for failure is crippling, and the only way to overcome it is to foster an undying defiance toward losing. Accepting a loss should hurt, but it should also motivate you to never let it happen again.
These athletes reminded me that accepting failure doesn't have to be an option. At their age, they probably don't even realize the power they possess.
Losing hardens the skin into callouses, and those toughened hands build the foundation for winning. Among all the lessons this season taught me, one stands above the rest: enjoy your victories. There's nothing sweeter than winning, especially when you devote your entire being preparing for that moment. Sharing it with a group of people with the same goal is an entirely other conversation...and why players never forget their love of the game.
Most people learn from their elders. After walking the trail, they tell you how to avoid getting tripped. Every once and a while you need to let someone younger than you take you off the path and show you the wild fruits, and I have to admit, I forgot how sweet the world could taste.