Teddy Roosevelt and the Critic
October 1, 2012
Back in the twentieth century when I played this game of football it was common to hear, “Football will make a man out of you.” What people were referring to back then was the game was very physical and you could count on bumps and bruises, cuts and scrapes and even a black eye now and then. It was common to get your ‘bell rung’ during a collision with an opponent who was also eager to learn some hard lessons while playing this game.
My father, who never played a down, would always console me after a loss with sound advice such as, “Son, everyone who plays football gets knocked down. It’s how fast you get up that counts.” He was right of course and he wasn’t talking just about crawling back up off the ground. He was speaking more about how one handles losing and disappointment. He had been down that path a number of times in real life. He changed jobs more than most people before finding his niche as a salesman. He was good at it and I always admired the way he never quit trying to find something he could do well.
I told the team after our loss to Clackamas that the staff wouldn’t quit on them and we won’t! We will continue to coach these kids and while doing so remind them that lessons learned in the sport arena are often times easier to learn after a loss than after a win. When things are going well and the wins are piling up its easy to be a good teammate. It’s during hard times when a team is struggling that it’s more important to understand how valuable loyalty can be.
In America we’ve become a place blame society. Pick up a newspaper and read about the latest gaffe and all you will read is who is being blamed for the problem. We’ve lost the ability to see the big picture. Fixing the problem should be the emphasis but second guessing and blaming is easier, certainly for the arm chair quarterbacks in our country.
I’ve always enjoyed coaching in Lake Oswego. One of the main reasons is because the parents are very loyal both to their son and to our staff. Nearly all of them understand how complicated it is to build a team filled with teenagers just beginning to reach their physical and mental potential. The difficulty of trying to make a young man understand why he is second string or why he is being asked to play a different position than is his desire is many times lost on the young. Age certainly helps. Thank you dads and moms.
I will admit to having a vision of this team that might have been a bit optimistic, but I’ve always tried to make kids understand confidence is a requirement to being successful and I needed to let them all know that my belief in their potential was genuine. Staying healthy would have made a huge difference and I was hoping that our injury jinx was over and that our best players would make it through the season unscathed. Wishful thinking as it turned out.
I dearly love this Teddy Roosevelt verse. It’s one that our players and our parents and our supporters need to hear because we have a team of kids who need to understand how much we appreciate their effort. They need to know the importance of doing a hard job well. And mostly they need to know that all of us who love these boys share in their frustration. Teddy’s words are very appropriate right now for sure.
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
There are winners and losers in life and not all the winners walk off the athletic arena with the most points. The lessons our kids are learning can’t be taught in the classroom. Friday nights, this season, haven’t been a lot of fun but please understand our kids aren’t afraid of failure. They are not going to back down from a challenge. They won’t be in the halls second guessing like those not willing to participate or take a chance. They will grow from this season and not being cold or timid will become better men because of it. And that you can take to the bank.