Tag Archives: football

Moments

Moments.

Small ones.

Life changing ones.

In one way life is simply the collection of moments. Everyday has the possibility of pain or happiness, even in a routine day there is beauty and love.  As I thought about the 18,252 days I’ve lived, there have been some life changing moments that are easily recognizable. But also, there have been small everyday moments that have proven to be foundations for me. This post has been a challenge, but here are my top five moments from the last 50 years.

Number Five

Calling my wife back, who was then just a classmate, after I hung up on her the first time. I barely got up the nerve to call her the first time to ask her out. We were in the same college class, “Discipline in the Classroom.” We debated against each other, she was smart and presented herself well everyday. I was the kid in the back with a coffee and my hat backwards, always willing to give my opinion. 

People still wonder how we make it work after 23 years, but it would have never happened if I didn’t squelch my fear and call her back after hanging up the first time. 

Number Four

Chasing my dream of being a head football coach and accepting a position that I had some reservations about. Those reservations turned out to be true. I was fired after one year. 

So many changes happened because of that choice. Some of them were tough on me and the family. There were positive outcomes, too.  That’s the complexity of moments.

I learned some hard lessons. I’ve let go of my dream of being a head football coach. I trust my gut instincts more. I learned that a strong family sticks together when things get rough.

Number Three

Holding each of my children the day they were born, except my second son who experienced a medical issue. We didn’t get to hold him for a few days.

That moment when I held a son or daughter in my arms, the world disappeared. Their little hands clenched, eyes closed, chest moving up and down, the moment they start this journey of life. The weight of knowing that I was responsible for their foundation wasn’t heavy, though. That responsibility was the meaning of fatherhood, and I still enjoy fulfilling that role in their life.

Number Two

One of the most pivotal moments in my life happened when I was 16 years old. I decided to take control of my life and essentially walk away from my family history. The moment was a decision that has been messy, filled with pain, anger, and a mix of other consequences. But I don’t regret it.

Number One

The moment happened during football practice my eighth grade year. At the time it was intense for practice, but looking in from the outside, nothing life changing. Until each day passed and moments presented themselves that reinforced the lesson coach gave me that day.

I wish I could give you my backstory up to that day in practice, but this is a blog not a book. Let’s just say I had gone through a lot of craziness already in life by the time I was in eighth grade. I was the tailback for the team, already a filling out as an athlete. On this day, I wasn’t running with much power. I was going down pretty easily at the first level (at the line of scrimmage).

Coach had had enough. He held my face mask as he ripped into me about my effort. I don’t remember everything he said, but the message was that I was too strong, too good to run like I was. I was in tears. He called a basic dive play. I was mad. We ran the play. I couldn’t see anything because I was crying so hard. Coach blew the whistle and screamed for everyone to freeze. 

Then he said,“Jamey, turn around!”

I froze on his first command. I was staring at the tennis courts and the street that ran in front of our school, trying to catch my breath. I turned around when he told me to. There was a line of players on the ground where I had run through the line.

“That’s how strong you are,” he said. And we returned to practice.

At that moment I understood his message, but didn’t know how important it was for me until I found myself needing that reminder when life was tackling me too easily. I remember that day. I remember that lesson. Even now, at the age of 50 life tries to take me down. But I know I am strong because of an everyday moment. Thanks, Coach.

Tomorrow’s post will not be so heavy. Tomorrow I’m going to share my top five songs, which is difficult in it’s own way!

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An Open Letter to Happiness

Dear Happiness,

I used to think of you as a rabbit.

You would appear just a few feet away, nose twitching, ears up. Always at least one eye on me. It was always cool to see you appear, but as soon as I would try to touch you, to feel your fur, you would dart off. Zig-zagging away. Your fluff of a tail waving goodbye.

RabbitEven when I would stumble onto a moment, unplanned, unexpected. You would be gone in a flash. I could never get close enough to catch you. To hold you in my arms. Feel your breathing, or smell your untamed spirit. You were too quick for me, even in my prime.

I know better now. I know that you, Happiness, are not a rabbit.

I know now that I was chasing other people’s expectations. The rabbits are social definitions of you. Rabbits that I can never catch. I’ll never have enough, or be enough, to catch them. It is still cool to see them in my yard. They still appear, nose twitching, eyes looking at me as if to say, “You can catch me this time! Really, you can.”

It’s hard not to give into the urge to chase them. To finally know how their fur feels, to feel that sense of pride after capturing one. But, I am so glad I finally saw you, Happiness.

I’ve heard the best place to hide is in plain sight. Happiness, you did that well. I remember when I discovered you were there, right by the front door. I laughed out loud because you were there every time I chased a rabbit. The day I figured it out, you were a pair of black Nike running shoes. I was headed out to take a walk to deal with the tension in my soul. And there you were, my shoes.

I see you, Happiness, all the time. You are my dress shoes I wear as a teacher, or when I go on a fancy date with my wife. You are the grass stained, worn out shoes in the garage I use to mow in. Once I figured it out, I knew you were there all the time. You were my football cleats. My track shoes. You were the shoes I bought when I started playing slow-pitch softball. You were there on my first day of kindergarten; nice clean shoes for the first day of school.

red shoesI only wish that I figured it out sooner. Even so, thank you Happiness, for being there every day. I understand that you are not a moment to be captured. You are the moments I live. Even in the rough spots, you are there. I found you in the ditch after my first car accident. I wore you as I boarded that Greyhound bus leaving my biological family behind. I was wearing a pair of Nike IDs when my second son was rushed out of the delivery room. I understand that you are there in everything I do, rain or shine.

I may never catch a rabbit, but I know I’ll have a great pair of shoes on when I run. Or even better, I’ll wear them as I sit on the front porch with my family watching the rabbits play.

 

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Open Letter To My Younger Self

I have become a fan of The Players’ Tribune. A couple of my favorite essays are from Danny Woodhead and Ray Allen. (Not to mention the recent essay from Isaiah Thomas, but his doesn’t fit this blog theme). Danny and Ray write a letter to their younger selves. I wrote a blog similar to this idea, “Staying True To My Younger Self,” but it focused on my writing.

I’ll turn 46 in a few weeks. And this thought about what advice I would give my younger self keeps storming my heart. So, I thought I would get the idea out onto paper…

Dear Younger Me,

It is amazing to think that I am just over the halfway mark of this life. The first half seemed to take so long to happen, all the change and growth and heartache that has occurred in these 46 years is crazy to think about. But, the years seem to be gaining speed, and life is going by way too fast. The oldest son is a junior in high school and the youngest daughter just turned four. I have had five different professional positions. We have a minivan with almost 100,000 miles and still a few months to pay it off!

Be ready, you are going to need to work on a few things. This letter is going to be tough to write, I hope you understand it when you read it.

First, forgive them. Everyone. Do it now because if you don’t, each day adds weight to your heart and it becomes harder to forgive. In fact I still haven’t. I can’t seem to let go of the pain and disappointment and the what ifs. Ironically, part of the problem is the work you will do to create a better life for yourself and your family. I’m not father or husband of the year, but the dinner table is often filled with laughter. There are hugs and bedtime stories. Movie nights with too much candy and simple moments of joy that take my breath away. But I haven’t forgiven certain people. You know who I mean, so forgive them as soon as you can. You can still live your own life without them, but your heart won’t be burden with the weight of anger and pain.

Second, I hope you read this in time, but don’t quit football. Don’t make that mistake. It will be your greatest regret.  Also, write more, push to become the writer you have always dreamed of since elementary school.  I’ve learned that the door of opportunity only stays open for so long before it closes. And when you choose to close that door, it can get locked and you have to let a dream die. Football. Other dreams can still be achieved. Writing. But you have to find an unlocked window to climb through. And sometimes that window is on the forty third floor. You have to struggle more than if you would have truly pursue your goals when the door was open.

Third, tell people thank you and that you love them. Let them in. Not everyone. But the people who are helping you, sometimes believing in you when you are not. You might think you will have time, but you won’t. Mr. Holt will pass away before you can tell him thank you for believing in you. There are others, like the Hudsons, Scott, and Mrs. Lane, who you will take for granted while you grow up. Let them know you are grateful, today. “Thank you,” might be the hardest thing to say in life because it reveals how you were affected by someone else.  For that moment you allowed someone into your life with an open heart and you are letting them know that by saying thank you.

And finally, stay true to who you are. I know you will do this at times, you will make hard choices because deep down you listened to the quiet but strong voice. Other times you will feel lost and hurt and wonder why life is so dark. That happens when you lose your focus, when you let others decide your future. Your path will be clearer if you continue to make choices that align with who you are (and what your goals are).

You are going to make it. At the halfway mark of life you will be amazed at how far you’ve come (and that you have driven two minivans as a dad). It won’t be easy, but I hope you take my advice so that when you arrive here you would have experienced more joy than heartache. But even if you don’t take my advice, you will look ahead to the second half of your life and you will know, even though the years are speeding up, that they will be filled with love.

                                                                                             Sincerely

                                                                                              You at 45

P.S. Remember this song?

 

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I am Tired

I am tired.

I turn 44 tomorrow. I have six kids. I spent the last two days with my youngest daughter as she started on her medicine for an ear infection. My oldest son is active in school, plus he is taking his driver’s license test tomorrow. My second son is enjoying junior high. He is always on the go. My oldest daughter has actually started on her first serious “story.” I am still on a learning curve at work. Life is busy (and the house is a mess).

I am tired.

I know that my life is not as stressful as others. In fact I know it is not as stressful as some of my closest friends that are battling cancer and other health issues. Their life struggles are more serious than mine. I know that they are tired, too.

I am tired.

Many of you that have stopped by to read this are tired.

But that is OK. In fact it is a good thing to be tired. It means you are in the middle of living. That you are spending your time and energy on the little things that build our life. I understand that being overly tired or stressed has negative effects on us. I also know that we need a break from stress to recharge.  But that’s not what I’m talking about.  When we actually live our lives than we are going to be tired. And that’s a good thing.

I’m going to use football for a second (you are free to use any activity you were involved in during school). Remember practice?  Remember being tired? Remember coach yelling at you to fight through the pain as you ran down and backs?  Me, too. Now remember how good it felt 30 minutes later after a good workout? Still tired, but feeling strong? Yeah, me, too. We practice more than we played.  Why? To build strength. But even during a game, we were tired.  We had to fight through the pain to make the next play. We had to perform, even when we were tired.

In our everyday life we don’t have as many big moments (like a game on Friday night), but they do happen. And sometimes those moments are life and death battles, like my friends who are fighting cancer and other health problems. How do we build the strength to fight when those big moments come? We live our everyday life. We become tired because of it. We build strength from that state of tiredness.

I am tired.
And I’m feeling stronger because of it.

This is dedicated to my friends and family who are battling right now. You are stronger than you know. You are loved more than I can express.

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What Else Is There?

The locker room was quiet.  There was the hum of the showers, freshman who hadn’t played a minute but instinctively knew to be out of the way. The varsity players in different stages of removing their equipment. Our quarterback sat against the wall, still in full gear except for his helmet that sat between his feet. There was no conversation.

We had lost our fourth straight game. The season had started so well, 3-0. But now, it all seemed to be falling apart. Nobody knew why.

One of our best players was sitting on top of the equipment cart. He was tired. His hair was matted down with sweat. You could see the outlines of the helmet’s interior pads in his hair. He had run all over the field as our middle linebacker, taking down players with crushing hits. But now his shoulders slumped as he laid back against the wall. He had played a helluva a game.

“Coach, could you help get the tape off?” He slightly lifted a foot that was wrapped in athletic tape.

“Yeah, I can.” I grabbed a bucket and flipped it over to sit on. I snagged a pair of tape scissors from the medical bag and started in on removing the tape job from his left foot.

I was almost done removing the tape from his first ankle when I heard him sob. It was one big inhale and rumbling exhale that almost made me drop the scissors.

“Nothing seems to work. I’m trying my best… trying to keep the team up… trying to make the play… I don’t know what to do anymore,” he said as he tried to keep his emotions in check.

There are so many different moments in sports. There are moments of victory. There are moments of defeat. Moments of courage. Moments of glory. And once and awhile there are honest moments that move past the playing field to our everyday life. I felt that I needed to handle the opportunity with care.

I didn’t have the answers to everything going on during the season. It was a rough time for lots of people and for different reasons.

As I removed the last segment of tape on his ankle and switched to his right foot I thought about trying to be inspirational – some kind of Remember the Titans speech. The scissors made a soft ripping noise as I cut through the tape. I decided to be honest and direct…the moment called for it.

“What else is there?” I said and made eye contact with him.  He stared back, unsure of what I said. I continued, “What else is there besides doing your best everyday? Really? You can quit, you can throw in the towel. You can be average. No one really talks about that side of things, but it’s true.”

I pulled strands of tape free, placed the scissors in a way that would not cut his socks and continued, “So, tell me, what else is there?”

He shrugs, I know he is thinking about it, his eyes have that distant look, like he is seeing a deeper level of his life.

“In this life, on that field, in the classroom, you have a choice. You can fail. You can be average. Or you can give your best, everyday. I wish I could guarantee it would make everything better. That we would win a game. But I can’t. Life does not work that way.” I cut through the last of the tape. “What I do know, is that you can’t even hope to win without your best effort. You can’t remove the hurdles in this life, you can only choose how you attack them.”

He nodded his head. I collected the scraps of pre-wrap and tape off the floor and dumped them into the trash. He jumped down off the equipment cart. “Thanks, coach,” he said as he headed to his locker.

“Anytime,” I said as I put the scissors away.

Coach

 

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Quicksand

We have all been there…

The biggest step in surviving quicksand is to stay calm, breathe, and slowly make your way out of the quicksand.  Most deaths associated with quicksand come from exhaustion, from fighting so hard against the quicksand a person has no energy left.

Surviving emotional quicksand is no different. Stay calm, breathe and understand that it is going to take time for the situation to change.  It is this aspect, time, that may be the hardest component for us to work with.  Because there is another aspect about emotional quicksand that the movie The Replacements and the character Falco, speaking in the clip, works through, confidence.

Because it takes time to work through emotional quicksand, doubts set in, and they set in fast.  Unlike sports, there is no post-game celebrations, wild-card game, or double elimination tournaments.  There is life. There is only this season, this record that we set now.  So doubt can raise its voice in our daily life, driving our need to change things quickly. Which then backfires on us and doubt gains influence and we can become exhausted.

Breathe, stay calm, and understand that it takes time.

The most important thing to remember though is, like sports, life gives us teammates…

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Power of a T-Shirt

With the extra time over break I spent time organizing my closet.  While I was working on my t-shirts I realized something… t-shirts are wearable scrapbooks, that bring back powerful moments in our lives.

Senior Year Swim Team

This is the front of my senior swim team shirt.  I was a diver.  I had high expectations my senior year.  I placed ninth at state my junior year, my first year diving.  But, I placed fourteenth, last, my senior year.  My best friend, who was a state champion, tried to console me after prelims (top 10 continue to finals the next day). This provided one of those friendship bonding lines; after I had finally told him what place I finished at he sincerely said, “I don’t know how you feel.”

The next shirt is the shirt from my first head coaching opportunity and represents one of my hardest decision as a father.

Pawnee City Team Shirt

This shirt was worn by every player on the team during warm-ups.  I was blessed to get the chance to be a head coach in my second year of teaching.  Even as I write this, I am flooded by the memories of the two seasons I coached.  Our first win, having a player crack his vertebrae during a homecoming game, running a crazy 2-3-3 defense (8 man) that allowed us to win a game.  But I made the decision to leave Pawnee City for my family and other reasons. I miss those players everyday.

Sometimes change comes from other people’s choices.

Centura Football

After Pawnee City, I was an assistant coach for the Centura football team.  Those eight years were filled with so many moments as a team, and for me as a coach.  A playoff game in freezing weather, a running back doing the spin move to make the touchdown after we had practiced that move that week, to not being apart of the team after eight years.

But there is something about being a head coach that fills or breaks your heart like nothing else.

Centura Track Team

I was again blessed to be a head coach for the Centura track team from 2009 to 2011.  Life has a funny way of presenting hard choices to you.  Again for family I would have to give up the opportunity to be a part a great team.  I miss wearing the fluorescent shirt to practice; it meant a killer practice for the athletes.  I miss building a season, the beauty and tragedy that track presents for athletes…one shot at performing at their best. Like life, the three years as head coach was filled with both heartbreak and incredible success.

But it isn’t all about sports.

Psychology

This shirt is from a year end project a student did for psychology class.  I have t-shirts from concerts, t-shirts of bands, t-shirts that represents all different types of moments from life.  So, what moment of life will you wear today?

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Failure

“Fight on, my men,” says Sir Andrew Barton,
“I am hurt, but I am not slain;
I’ll lay me down and bleed a while,
And then I’ll rise and fight again.“Sir Andrew Barton”

As many football fans know, the Buffalo Bills would fight back to the Super Bowl the next three years (and coming up short in their goal to win it).  In their third appearance they were a wild card team. What an example of strength and heart.

Sometimes it seems that life is filled with failure.  It feels like a streak of bad luck hits us.  Stress, unexpected situations, any number of things can be viewed as a negative in our lives.  Everybody has failure.  But how do we respond?  That is the important key to success.

I know that I am not writing anything new, not presenting a breakthrough in life for anyone.  But we sometimes need to be reminded why it is important to “rise and fight again.”

Failure can distort our view of ourselves; it can cripple our resolve and sabotage the true joy of life around us.  We must feel the pain of failure, let it touch our heart and spark a tear or two.  That is the bitter sweetness of truly living.  Success is learning from that pain and “moving forward” toward our goals.  As the New Year approaches it gives us a chance to reflect and refocus. I can promise you that failure will occur next year, and I hope you will move forward through it.  In fact, I dare you to.

Have a great 2012!

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