The High School Has-Been This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   "As I look back, playing football was the greatest thing I've done during my four years in high school. I gave a lot to football and got a lot out of it. The game has taught me many lessons that I can apply to everyday life and through the sport I have met my best friends."

This is what I had intended to say when it was my turn to speak. It is a tradition that after our last practice of the season the seniors address the team and talk about what football has meant to them. I had given this speech a considerable amount of attention and I had collected my thoughts into that very brief address. I had watched two other groups of seniors do this and each time the biggest, toughest guys I knew, guys I looked up to and tried to emulate, cried their eyes out. I'm not a very emotional person but I knew that the chances were strong that I would break down at some point during the speeches.

As the team assembled on that brisk Wednesday morning, I felt anxious because I didn't want to get so emotional that I would embarrass myself. When my turn came to speak, I began by thanking the coaches. But I hadn't even finished that when the tears came. I would compare my emotional state that day to a person who has stoically persevered through a great ordeal, but when that person's trial is over, the most trivial thing causes them to break down.

Looking back I am not surprised that it happened like it did. My senior year had been a tremendously demanding ordeal. I had bottled up so much for so long. I should have known it would only be a matter of time before I had to let it all out. Time and time again my teammates had looked to me to lead them and every time I rose to the challenge. I would give so much night after night: playing on a broken leg (I didn't know it at the time), five frustrating weeks spent healing and rehabilitating that leg while I watched my teammates lose four very close games and then coming back and not only overcoming my own mental and psychological constraints but digging deep within myself to find the courage and strength to inspire my downtrodden teammates. It still amazes me that I did what I did. But my friends and family inspired and helped me get through it.

I purged my soul that day. But after the last tear dried, I felt a lot better. (I guess the Sesame Street song was right.) And the next day, as I took the field, I felt tremendously confident. I was emotionless and relaxed. I felt as though I controlled the game. My team was unstoppable and our opponent was at our mercy. I felt invincible and there was no doubt that we were going to win. I had a lot of fun out there on that cold Thanksgiving Day morning and we soundly defeated our opponent. It was our third victory in a row and a wonderful ending to a difficult season.

My coach teased me a little for crying during my speech but I'm glad that I did. I only wish that I had added one more thing to my speech. I wish I had told my teammates, my best friends, that like my family, they were my strength and my inspiration. I truly believe that with them at my side I can face any adversity and endure every hardship because every time I got knocked down in high school, they were there to help me up.

Thanksgiving came and went and so did my high school football career. Although I may play in college, I'll never again go to battle with my best friends. We failed to reach our goals in terms of wins and loses but I have no regrets because more importantly, we made memories and formed friendships that will last for our lives. I only wish that I hadn't bottled up my feelings for so long because maybe the emotional burden weighed me down. Quoting that song from my childhood "It's all right to cry. It'll make you feel better." l


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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