Ben's football team, the Waukesha South Jr. Blackshirts 8th graders had their first game this week versus the cross town rival Waukesha West Wolverines. Waukesha West has always managed to have a decent varsity program and typically it filters down to the lower levels as well. It is always a priority every year for his coaches to "beat West". They seem to always give them a good game, but I don't remember them beating them. This year was different. They managed to rather soundly beat the Wolverines by a score of 30-20. There were a couple of big plays by a couple of players, but for the most part this win was a team win. Everybody participated, no one boy really stood out as being indispensable. Everyone worked together and it seemed to be a really good start to the season.
Watching Ben always brings back memories of my playing days at the grade school level. Like him, I played 6th through 8th grade. 6th and 7th grade was at the intramural level, so I managed to be a starter. Eight grade was different; more organized, more focus on winning. Like Ben, I was small for eighth grade. Like him, I was a second stringer - at best - and sometimes a third. Like him, I was just glad to be a part of a team. Like him, I questioned my ability at times, because I was always "second best". Like him I had moments of brilliance on the field. I may have had a bigger love for the game, but otherwise, our similarities are more than our differences.
I recall the one game I actually started as an eighth grader. I was nervous going in, but the coach had enough confidence in me and wanted to get some of the smaller guys some playing time, as well as the ability to "start" a game. I played defensive end. My main job was "box the ends." Force the play inside by boxing the ends. So I boxed away.
Well, the opponent decided to run a sweep my way. I boxed the end only to see a guard and fullback forming a wall that I was soon to be a part of. They came at me hard and I took a full shot. Absolutely came up spitting dirt. I barely knew what hit me. It turned out the play didn't gain but a couple of yards. I ran back to the huddle and I remember the star linebacker Tim Godfrey came up hit me on the shoulder pad and said "Nice play Jimmy."
I think my response was "Wha? I got steamrolled."
He said "No, you broke up the interference. Nice play."
It was then that it occurred to me that EVERYONE has a role, regardless of ability. It's not about wins or losses, size, speed, or strength. It's about DOING YOUR BEST. Giving 100% for your team.
That's what it's all about.