Perhaps the reason I was never given the opportunity to get on the football field in high school was because I had no talent. I don’t know how any coach would know that, since I was never allowed to try, but it was certainly one explanation. However, I had suspicions that it may have been related to my 8th grade experience in Mr. Coach Anderson’s classroom.
Finally, half way through the season during “practice” one day, I got my courage up. I went up to Coach Anderson and asked/begged him to let me get on the field. Note, that we bench-sitters were given absolutely no training in how to run plays. We were given some training in how to block and tackle. We were given more than ample instruction on how to warm a bench!
But I did it! I convinced the coach to let me go into the scrimmage. He put me in as a right defensive tackle. Having watched the other kids who were actually allowed to play, I knew my job was to wait until the ball was hiked, then rush through the line and tackle the ball carrier, a direct goal. Admittedly, the sound of helmets and shoulder pads smashing against each other did remind me of afore mentioned “Cage”.
I was ready. My adrenalin was pumping. I watched intently to see when the ball was hiked. Immediately I looked up to find the ball carrier and gave everything I had to smash my way through the line. Then IT happened. The kid on the opposing side decided to literally jam his fist through my helmet’s facemask. With what felt like all his might, he hit me squarely in the nose. I immediately saw stars. My eyes teared-up (even though I wasn’t really crying) so I couldn’t see anything. Blood was spurting out of my nose like a fire hydrant. I was now incapacitated. What’s a kid to do? This only thing I could think of was to go to the Coach and ask if I could sit out just one play. Then I could get the bleeding stopped and get back on the field.
Coach Anderson’s response was crushing, “You whine about wanting to get in the play, then I let you in, and now you are whining about getting out. You are done Berry”. From that day on my pants never saw the light of day…I was stuck sitting on the bench.
Several more weeks progressed and it was now about three quarters of the way through the season. Yes, I did get to ride on the bus to some of the away games, but I, along with many others, never stepped onto the field. While I may have not been the sharpest pencil in the box, I was smart enough to know that I had no future in Coach Anderson’s world of football. Why not just quit?
So one day I took my gear into Mr. Vernon, the head of the PE department and told him I was done. I explained my situation. He tried to talk me out of quitting, using some form of logic which escaped me. But the one thing he did say stuck with me to this day. He said, “if you quit now, you will always be a quitter”. It scared the willies out of me, but I quit anyway.
The question is, was Mr. Vernon right? Personally, I believe he made a good point. I believe it is all too easy to continue later in life with those habits we establish while younger. Interestingly in my case, I think his advice served as a strong admonition of caution. I believe he actually helped me be exceptionally cautious about being a “quitter”. In fact there have likely been areas of my life in which it would have been better for me to “cut my losses” and quit something when I did not. It is possible that I may have become a quitter in life had Mr. Vernon not given me that admonition, but for some reason it turned into a paradoxical challenge.
How strange when the confluence of activities in our lives come together to build a stronger flow. We just need to allow them to do so.
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