My First Day of Battle

May 12, 2011
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At the age of 8 I moved to a new house. I had previously lived in Apache Junction. However my dad got a promotion so we could afford a bigger house. There was a place to the south where my dad had golfed before and was becoming a community so we bought a house and moved. I was very excited because he said we would get to move into a 2 story house.

In Apache Junction I had been a baseball player, but when we moved we couldn't find a program I could join. So one day me and my dad were driving to get some new clothes when we saw a poster advertising for a football team in Florence.

“How awesome it would be if you started playing football?” My dad asked. Now my dad was an awesome supporter, and was even my baseball coach at one time. However football is his favorite sport.

That year however I did not play football. But the next season we saw the sign again, and this year I was 9 and after not playing sports for a year I decided why not. How bad could it be, right? So we went to sign ups. I signed up and they fitted me for my pads. It was so incredible! I felt like a little gladiator! My dad laughed so when he saw how I looked.

“Look at you all suited up and ready for your first day of battle!”

To this I just laughed and looked down at my feet, I was speechless. Only because it's a line that I think to myself every time I put my shoulder pads on before any football practice or game I've ever played since. Because every time I step on any field in my pads it is a new battle.

I got signed to a team called the Wildcats. Sounds pretty tough to a 9 year old boy. Now when I was this age I had a friend named Joseph Dahle. And when you are going into something new and intimidating like the sport of football it helps to go in with somebody. So Joe also signed up for the football team and together we went to our first practice. I remember it like it was just yesterday. We had to practice on a community baseball field because there wasn't a football field any where near we could practice. The field was not the best of shape, the dirt was really thin and rocky. And the grass was short and dying so it was sharp on bare skin and left little white scrapes. But it was still better then a dirt field would have been.

We got there right on time. My mom isn't very good at being early to things, so when we got there everybody else was already there. To be perfectly honest, I felt completely out of place in the middle of Florence playing a sport I really didn't know much about. I did have one thing going for me though. It was the fact that I was willing to do whatever it took to learn, and be the best I could be.

So when we got there we stood off to the side mostly because we didn't know anybody and also because since we had never played we didn't know what we where supposed to be doing. It seemed like all the other kids knew each other. This was because as I found out later they all lived in Florence together and went to school with each other. As we all stood around on this baseball field off to my right I heard a sharp shrill sound of a whistle. A sound that after playing baseball for a few years I had become quite accustomed to. Anyways we all hear this whistle and start looking around. From the right side this big man comes walking onto the field, his name was one I will never forget. Coach Hayes, my first ever football coach, who taught me how to love a sport that requires you to be physically beaten down just for an ounce of pride.

Anyways the first thing he had us do was line up on the first base line so he could take a look at us all, about to give one of those famous speeches every coach has to give at the beginning of the season something every football player has come to know and love. After the speech the coach took a few of the players he knew and lined them up and then told everybody else to line up 5 yards apart facing the leaders. Then, the coach started teaching us how to stretch. As you can imagine it took a bunch of 9 year old boys quite a while to figure it out. But after about 45 minutes we finally finished up with it.

From there, we all lined back up on the first base line so the coach could look at us and tell us what position we should play. Now every little kid in America who watches football wants to play a position like quarterback or running back because those are the players names you hear on the television or radio during a NFL game.

So he went down the line and told kids where to go. All of the sudden he got to me.

“Hmm I think you would be a good lineman”

WHAT!? A lineman? No no that's not what I wanted at all!

But I was definitely not going to say that to a coach. So I just hustled over to where he told me to go. I just figured he knew what he was talking about because he seemed like he did. He finished through the line.

“I have sorted you guys by your size and just by watching you when you stretched, if you are in a position you don't want to be in then move to where you want to be”

At this moment I wasn't sure what to do, I could run over to one of the positions where all the kids had started flocking to...but I decided not to. I can not remember why I didn't but something just told me that in the future if I continued playing it would be on the line. So I stayed.

After he finished writing the names of the kids in all the positions he had us line back up in our stretching lines.

“Right now we are going to learn how to do something that if you continue in this sport you will have to do a lot of, it is called an up down.”

That sounded so funny to me at the time. But then he explained what an up down was and it lost all of the humor it had. Now for those who don't know what an up down is it is a horrid invention made up by coaches to torture their players! Basically what you do is start by chopping your feet in place, then throw yourself at the ground and finish by getting back up. That is just one. How could this help at all? However when you are actually in a game you hit the ground numerous times, and the faster you get up the better of you will be. That day we did 50! We stopped in intervals of 10 but still it felt like we did so many! It was insane how tiring just falling down and getting back up could be.

Afterward our coach had all of us sweaty boys cram as close together as we could so he could give yet another speech. This one was to congratulate us for making us through our first ever practice. I was SO proud of myself for doing it. After practice, I ran as fast as I could over to my mom and she gave me a huge hug, she had sat through the whole practice and watched me. It was an amazing practice and one I will never ever forget I had such an amazing time! And I continue to every season that I play.

Now 7 years later I am so glad that I had the courage to start a new sport. Whatever ran through me at the moment telling me to stay as a lineman because I am still a lineman now and wouldn't change my position for anything!

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