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football practice

No matter how hopeless, no matter how far

We were going through a normal football practice. Drills were crisp, coaches coaching, everyone hustling and working hard to prepare for the upcoming game…when off in the distance, a line of cars was approaching our practice field! The line stopped at the portion of the practice field we named the Hill. The Hill was where players ran back and forth a specific amount of times for missing practice and for other rule infractions.

Eventually, players exited the cars dressed in their football practice uniforms and began running up and down the hill. These players happened to be those who had missed practice that day or days previous. No one said a word. The guys went about their business running their hills. The parents sat in the cars and waited patiently until their son finished running the hills. When finished, the boys returned one-by-one to their car and drove away. Our team managers were asked to the number completed so that the players would receive credit for running their hills.

The ongoing practice continued as planned, but there was a distinct change in the team’s attitude at the sight of their teammates running the hills! They became more vocal, their performance level was raised, and nothing seemed too difficult for them to . Their emotional level was peaked, and they really put more heart into what they were doing!

The very next day, the caravan of cars appeared again. The boys exited the cars and ran their hills. However, one car carried the athletic director to the field. Now, he had never once been to our practice field, so I assumed something was on his mind. He shouted, “What are you doing! Why are these boys here running? Did you demand they do this?!”

I explained what had occurred the day before. He was amazed! He asked, “You mean, they were not made to run their hills, and the parents drove them to and from the field?” “Yes!” I said. The AD continued, “, do you know we have a flu epidemic in our and attendance has really fallen off?” “No,” I replied. Since I was an adjunct coach, I was not aware of this. He went on, “These boys are absent from but are here running their hills to prevent the amount from accumulating to an insurmountable number. They are then returning home to continue dealing with their flu problem. And the parents have not complained but continue to drive the players to and from the field.” The AD concluded: “I have never seen or heard of anything like this in my 30-plus years in education!” With that, he left me and went over to the parents. I never found out what was said between the AD and the parents. However, this continued until the boys recovered from the flu and officially returned to !

Of course, I am not suggesting that everyone who has contracted the flu run hills, but what inspired the boys to do this?! More important, what moved the parents to participate in the running of the hills?!

I offer this from a former basketball/football coach that I worked with for many years. Joe Pie feels this way about the value of , and it may be why parents and players had done what they did: “I always ask if you can to compete in a math class or an English class. Every academic class builds important skill sets we can use as we progress through life achieving our goals. Education opens the doors for all of us. Yet learning how to compete can only be found through the fire and ice of athletics. Dealing with loss, overcoming adversity, getting knocked down, and getting back up. And never underestimate the soul-eating complacency that sets in after winning. Yet learning how to win through athletics is the ultimate goal. Once you get it, you never lose it. It’s the athlete’s biggest .”

Joe Pie says, “You simply do what it takes in every situation.”

No Matter How Hopeless, No Matter How Far!

Go, Gloucester Catholic High School

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About Jack Bottinger

Jack Bottinger
Retired teacher and football coach

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