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Lessons in Football - Lessons in Life This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   It was the first week of school at my junior high. It wasalso the first day of full pads for the football team. I had never playedfootball before; my mother hadn't allowed me to participate in "thatdangerous, uncontrolled" Pop Warner league. Things started badly, I was latefor practice because I didn't know which pad went where. I finally arrived as theteam began stretching. Then the coach informed us we would beginhitting.

Oh, no! I thought as I strapped down my helmet. This is it.Either I just go for it and make the team, or I get scared, get hurt and go home.But then I figured, I've wanted this for a long time, why not just prove it tomyself and my teammates? The hitting began. As Coach spotted those who could hitwell and hard, he sent them off to the side. It made me very nervous that mypeers, the tough football players, would watch me the very first time I tried totackle someone. This also made me want to be in that group more than anything.Those were the players, the athletes, the guys who made the team. I wanted toimpress the coaches and my teammates more at that moment than any othertime.

I was next in line to hit. Coach yelled, "Hut." I racedforward. Crack. Ouch, that hurt! Coach sent me back in line. It didn't mean I hadfailed, only that I needed another chance. Again, I found myself at the front ofthe line. I was confident I had learned from the other players and my firstexperience. Coach yelled, "Hut." I raced forward. Crack. Hey, that onefelt pretty good. I connected with my shoulder pad instead of my head. This hitdidn't feel as though I had broken my neck. I knew it was a goodsign.

Again it was my turn. "Hut!" Crack. Hey, I'm improvingwith every try. Coach also noticed and sent me to the "I am a tough guy whocan hit" line. As I watched the other guys, I felt I had made the team, yetI still had strong doubts.

The next day Coach posted the freshman team. Ieagerly scrolled down the list and, surprisingly, my name was there.

Asthe season went on I improved, but I was too small and inexperienced to besuccessful and I was never given a chance. Football coaches find their startersand never change, so I went from position to position trying to find a spot of myown. Once in a while I would get in a game when we were winning by a largemargin, but then only for a few minutes.

That sophomore year was my firstat that school, and my football experience changed. The coaches gave me a freshstart and I had grown, so I knew this year would be better. As the first gameapproached, I emerged as the starting cornerback. I held this position the wholeyear and did well. Finally, I was establishing myself as a footballplayer.

My sophomore year ended and I figured I would start on juniorvarsity. I didn't lift weights or try to improve myself over the summer. I didgrow a lot, though, and the coaches saw something in me. After one week ofpractice, the varsity head coach spoke to me. He said they didn't have manyvarsity linebackers, so he would like me to practice with them. This shocked me,because linebackers are considerably larger than cornerbacks. I never thought Iwould be on varsity, especially playing linebacker. I was mad at myself for notworking harder over the summer. If I had dedicated myself, I might have been ableto start. The whole year, I was a special teams player, which helped me improve alot, yet it was still in the back of my mind that I could have started. I toldmyself this would not happen again.

So, that year I lifted weights andworked on the game. My size and strength increased rapidly, and I knew there wasa spot for me on the varsity team. I continued improving over the summer as muchas I could. When the season began, I secured a starting spot as linebacker andtight end.

My football experience has taught me that hard work, disciplineand perseverance pay off. Every year, I moved up a little to achieve my finalgoal this year. I watch my teammates quit or complain because they do not playenough, but I've learned just to keep giving it my best - a valuable lesson inlife. These same teammates who quit because things weren't going well willprobably quit in life also. I have learned to fight through adversity, which willserve me well.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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