I am so lucky to work with colleagues that understand the inspirational side of sports. You know, the intrinsic piece that helps to push athletes to the edge of their capabilities…and sometimes beyond.
Yesterday, toward the end of the school day, a colleague of mine (Tony Nevrly, someone I respect and would call a good friend) handed me a single sheet of paper with a prose on it titled Thoughts to Ponder…FATHER’S DAY. He told me he wanted my thoughts on the piece as he was planning to read it to the varsity team he helped coach before this weekend’s game.
Always willing to give my opinion, at least that is what my wife tells me, I said “sure.”
Now I have to caution you a little as, at least twice, I had to stop reading and ask my colleague “you are going to read this to the team?”
You see, I found it difficult to hold back tears, especially at the end, and wondered how he would get through reading this without breaking down emotionally. He said “yes” that was his plan…but wondered the same.
It was so moving that I thought I would share it here on my blog due to its inspirational worth and demonstration of what so many are capable of, if they were only willing to look deep inside.
The piece was given to my colleague years ago by a man of sound principles (a state championship football coach and mentor to my friend). His name was Jim Rexilius (passed in June of 2003).
The story is reprinted from Reader’s Digest; November 1950. As I mentioned in my title…make sure you have some Kleenex available. I know I could have used some.
Thoughts to Ponder…FATHER’S DAY
Bill Stern, the radio sports commentator, told me this football story:
One year when Lou Little was coaching Georgetown, there was a youngster on the squad who was no great shakes as a football player, but whose personality served as a morale booster for the whole team. Little was deeply fond of the boy. He liked the proud way he often walked arm in arm with his father on the campus. If the team was far enough ahead, the coach let him get into a game occasionally for the last few minutes of play.
One day, about a week before the big finale with Fordham, the boy’s mother called Little on the phone. “My husband died this morning of a heart attack”, she said. “Will you tell my boy? He’ll take it better if it comes from you.” Little broke the news and the boy went home sorrowfully.
He was back three days later, and came straight to Little, “coach,” he begged, “I want to start in that game against Fordham. I think it’s what my father would have liked most.”
Little hesitated, and then agreed. “O.K., son, you’ll start, but you’ll only be in there for a play or two. You aren’t good enough, and you know it.
True to his word, Little started the boy-but he never took him out. For 60 full, jarring minutes he played inspired football, running, blocking and passing like an All-American, and sparking the team to victory. Back in the clubhouse, Little threw his arm around the boy’s shoulders and said, “Son, you were terrific today. You stayed in there because you belonged there. You never played that kind of football before. What got into you?”
The boy answered, “Remember how my father and I used to go arm in arm? My father was totally blind. This afternoon was the first time he ever saw me play.”
It is said to have been a true story, but who is to know? Whether true or not, it certainly has deep meaning for what can be accomplished when one looks deep within oneself and finds extra reserves of ability. The kind that only comes from a characteristic many call “heart.”