From Mike McCurry’s “Talk of the Town” column in The Clarendon Courier, August 30, 2018
It’s been a long six months since we saw the last snap taken in Super Bowl 52, when Tom Brady threw that perfect but unsuccessful “Hail Mary” pass to Rob Gronkowski, and into a sea of Eagles hands.
When your kids lay down their fortnight joysticks for their fantasy draft kit, it must be getting closer to fall football – thank goodness, football is finally here!
Hinsdale Central has already played (and won) their first game. The local youth tackle football organization, Hinsdale Falcons, has been practicing for a month now, and also played their first games last weekend.
I have a lot of great memories playing football as a kid.
But the game has changed since I was younger, with rules aimed at player safety. And it certainly has challenges to overcome to keep current, and to convince parents to allow their kids to play.
Yet I know that some of the greatest lessons that have stayed with me throughout my life came from playing football. With all the talk about when younger children should begin to play football (or if at all), I became motivated to jot down and share some of these lessons that I hope my children will take away from the game.
- Be yourself. Be the best you can be, but don’t be someone you are not. No one likes a fake. Football exposes fakes and helps kids to find the talent within themselves to help contribute their true self to the team. The position always finds the player, not the other way around. It’s a hard game that demands one to play for the team, not the individual. By being yourself, you become a leader and who you are supposed to be.
- Winning is really important, but not at all cost. Don’t cheat; Don’t take shortcuts. Earn what you have. Abide by the rules. I remember vividly my College coach at Indiana, Bill Mallory, making this point in a Sunday night team meeting after a good victory the day before. Coach didn’t like that several players were out past curfew during the school week, so he made it clear by calling out every one of the offenders. Some got a little shaken up (quite literally too) during his rampage. We knew that even the most talented would go home if they broke that rule again. I know to this day that every impressionable young man on the team remembers that night – we referred to it as “Black Sunday”.
- Hard work pays off. It starts with attitude -no excuses. I’ve been part of organizations where victories come easy, but they are more meaningful when they require hard work. It’s a telling sign to see boys crying after a game – won or lost – the tears are the evidence of their hard work, their effort and sometimes, the sacrifice that was put into preparation.
- Be loyal. Trust your teammates; build a bond of brothers who will fight for each other in a foxhole. Keep promises; be accountable. Football is a game of trust. Every player has an important part in every single down. If everyone wins their assignment, the play is successful. If one player breaks down, the play could be disastrous. The strong bond of friendship that is forged through teamwork last a lifetime.
- Perseverance. Mental toughness, focus, determination and confidence are often developed through difficulties, negative circumstances and obstacles that play out in the game of football. Having perseverance is one of the greatest life lessons we can teach our children.
This is my fourth year coaching Hinsdale Falcons Football, and the last three years, I’ve had two teams, so I could coach both of my boys.
I wanted every opportunity to be alongside them to help teach the important lessons I had the privilege to learn. This year my oldest son is starting defensive end for the freshman team at Hinsdale Central.
It was a long six month without football, but we’re glad it’s back.