Building character


I’ll do my excuses up front. My fingers are still frozen from attending football this morning. According to the thermometer in the car, it was 0 degrees and it was quite windy.

But, it was the day of champions in the Windsor Minor Football League. There are three guys that hang around this house every now and again played football this year. Two of them made it to the semi-finals last week and one got to play for a championship this morning.

Here’s the Peterson Dream Team…

It was the little guy on the right that was playing for the championship in Tyke football. He’s in Grade 3 and has enjoyed playing for the first time this year.

I’m amazed at the opportunity afforded to these three guys, all in elementary school. In my life, football was something we played in the back yard and the first opportunity to play organized football was in Grade 9. It competed against soccer as a sport that you might want to play. Since games were played on Thursdays, the two sports had to contend for the single football/soccer field in the backyard of our school.

Not so, for these guys these days. MicMac Park in Windsor has two dedicated back-to-back football fields. They also had an opportunity to play at the University of Windsor, Tecumseh Vista School, and today at St. Clair College’s Acumen Field. A bit of a note of jealousy; I’ve never had the chance to play on artificial turf.

The little guys look even smaller on a full-sized field.

It has been such an interesting fall around here. It’s been incredibly warm; today was the first time that it actually felt like football weather.

I remember, as a secondary school football coach, going to a clinic where one of the speakers was Bo Schembechler from the University of Michigan. (Remember I live just across the border from the United States) It was humbling to be in the audience of such an individual who was indeed bigger than life. I remember the enthusiasm with which he spoke and one of the messages that he gave us that sticks today went like this “you’re not just a football coach; you are a life coach and you need to be building character in the young people in your charge”.

It was a message that stuck and you do what you do on the practice and game field. It might have sounded a bit hokey at the time but these young gentlemen on your football team all of a sudden were on your team in the classroom, in the hallways of the school, and on the streets in the community. I’ve tried to explain it numerous times to my wife and just haven’t been able to do it effectively.

It came across quite clearly a couple of weeks ago. Sadly, my wife and I were at a Celebration of Life for another gentleman who had also coached football at my school. It was a long time ago that we coached and yet, there were football players showing up at the celebration. I hadn’t seen them for years and they went out of their way to come up to chat about their lives, their successes, their families, their fond memories of playing football, and calling me “Coach”. She got it.

So often, it’s the antics of a few coaches on the sidelines that make the television highlight clip. I can tell you that there are hours and hours spent working on skills and other things. Being leaders and team players are a couple of things that go into your coaching. While they may not appear to be consistent terms, they are in football. Maybe it’s the game; maybe it’s the fact that there are 12 players on the field at the same time and another 12 when you switch from offense to defense. Who knows for sure?

Success in coaching is measured more than winning a game here and there. Football isn’t an easy sport to play and it can be difficult at times for these young people to stay within themselves. It’s an important attribute and the type of character building that you’d like to see them take away with themselves after a season.

So, I go back to the gentleman on the right in the picture above. I’ve seen him grow and mature during the course of the season. Yes, there are moments when he is still just a kid and that’s so special. But, being part of this team headed toward a championship has indeed made noticeable changes in him. I’m hoping that he’ll have fond memories of this year when he’s asked if he wants to play again next year.

On this day, he ended up a runner-up in the season but proudly showed me his small trophy. While it may be small, he grew so much through this experience.

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OTR Links 11/14/2022


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