When they asked me to coach a football team this year, I wasn’t sure I wanted to. This past weekend when the season was over, I wasn’t sure I wanted it to end.
I’d coached baseball and basketball before, but I’d never coached a football team. I learned very quickly that it was really easy to get attached to the kids. My eight little guys made every practice and played every down as hard as they could. These guys even “called me out” after the first four games for not having a team prayer before the games we played. The three things I preached to them all season was that every kid will get to carry the ball at some point during the game, whether we win or lose always be a good sport, and have lots of fun. They did great all season and somehow our team went amazingly farther than anyone (especially me) ever expected.
This past Sunday we made it all the way to the Super Bowl game. As I stood there looking at our team, I got a lump in my throat thinking to myself that this was our last game. I told the boys that win or lose, they’d make me the most proud if they played as good sports.
We quickly went down two touchdowns in the first half. On our second time to get the ball we were driving for what I hoped was going to be our first score. As we all huddled near the goal line I was racking my brain to come up with the play that would give us the best chance to score. It was then that Mason, the young man who’d led the team all year as quarterback said, “I’ve got an idea.” I said, “What do you think we ought to do?” He said, “I think we should let Matthew run the ball.” Everyone in the huddle agreed. Matthew was the boy on our team that had some physical disabilities. He is a great kid that made every practice and always tried his very best, but Matthew wasn’t very fast. He didn’t always run the ball the right way, and he had a hard time taking the snap because he only had one arm that worked at 100%. I’m ashamed to admit it, but way down deep in my heart that wasn’t the play I wanted to call. That next play we gave the ball to Matthew. He took the snap and got us two yards closer to the end zone. He did great. We were able to score on the following play.
Even though we lost the game Sunday, we still came home a very proud second place. Most of all, they played as good sports and made me very proud. I’m really glad to be through with all the games and all the practices, but I’ll still miss seeing my eight all-stars on a regular basis. I was honored to be their coach. They are champions in my book.