There are things that carry us much farther than they ever should. Our best self often springs out of something that we take as our own even though it never really belonged to us. This is the story that has been the most influential on my playing and coaching career.
My father played for St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark. St. Benedict’s is a virtual factory of soccer talent in NJ. Several USMNT players went there. Only my father didn’t play soccer, he played football. His was one of the last classes that played football before the school closed briefly and switched over to soccer.
My father is essentially blind without his glasses. In the late 1960’s, he didn’t have the money for special goggles or contact lenses to wear while playing football. So as a middle linebacker, he basically chased blobs that wore the other teams colors. Despite his vision, he was a pretty effective defender. In the last game of the season, his team was holding onto a slim lead in the fourth quarter. My father’s assignment was to go in on a blitz. He was just about to hit the quarterback when a screen pass was looped over his head to the running back. My father turned and raced after the running back for nearly sixty yards. He came close to catching him, but the running back crossed the goal line first. My father was completely dejected because he had lost the game for his team.
A few weeks later at the football banquet, they were showing film from the season. That play came up on the screen. It played out exactly as my father remembered it. He raced in to tackle the quarterback and got beat by a screen pass. The running back was able to outrun him to the goal line. However, with his glasses on, he saw something that he didn’t notice during the game. During the game, he hadn’t paid attention to all of the teammates he passed who were in a better position to stop the runner, but they gave up before he did.
Even though it is a football story, it has colored my career as a player and a coach. As a player, I have caught many players that I shouldn’t have just because I refused to give up. Even when it looked hopeless! As a coach, I have looked to instill that same level of dedication and effort into my players because giving yourself to a worthy cause is always worth it.
You don’t have to play for one of the best programs in the country to give your best effort! Many times, chasing your dreams is going to look a lot like that play. You’re going to be close enough to touch them but they slip away. Do you give up or run like a partially blind man after them? The answer to that question is going to tell you a lot about yourself.
Go get ’em!