I have been on an exciting journey the last few weeks watching my nephews play high school football. I’m from a small farming community, and when I say small I mean 290 people kinda small. That’s my hometown of Marble Rock, Iowa.
Our high school, Rockford, has never really had a winning season in football (ever). Last year they were 0-9. Losing 9 games in a season is demoralizing to say the least. To make it worse they racked up a 23 game losing streak!
This year was different!
A couple of weeks ago, I traveled four and half hours to Iowa to watch my two nephews play in an unprecedented state quarterfinal playoff game against last year’s State Champions, Don Bosco.
Rockford faced Don Bosco in game 3 of the regular season and lost 80-6. Don Bosco has been to the State playoffs every year since 2011. They have a tradition of winning. Rockford, on the other hand, has never in the history of the school won a state playoff game. Rockford winning this game would be the upset of the season.
Watching the game was a mix of excitement and fear. Could we actually come out on top? Could we break the cycle of losing? I’ve never been so invested in a game of football!
It was a nail biter! Our defense had an amazing game, stopping the Don in the Red Zone time after time. The game went into overtime, and our defense held them on the first drive. The Warrior offense took the field, and on third down they scored a touchdown! Rockford Warriors made school history to be the first team to ever to win a game in the state playoffs.
Winning changes everything
A few days later, I traveled back to Iowa for the Semifinal playoffs. As the team marched onto the turf at the University of Northern Iowa to face undefeated Southeast Warren I was a nervous wreck!
It was a great day to be a Warrior! As I sat in the stands, I could see unity in our tiny community. I saw people I haven’t seen in 20 years in the stands cheering. Everyone united behind the team. They were there to be part of the something greater than themselves.
Facebook feeds were full of blue and white, with everyone sharing pictures and celebrating. People bought plane tickets and flew back home to watch the games. Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, neighbors, friends, everyone rooting them on to victory.
Watching the game unfold I couldn’t be more proud. I believe that if we want something bad enough and are willing to work hard, harder than anyone else, then we will be winners despite what the score at the end of the game says. But wouldn’t it be sweet if they won again? They played like a team. You could feel the appreciation they had for their teammates in every play.
They defeated Southeast Warren 52-19 which put them in the State Championship game the following week!
Winning isn’t about the score
Of course, I went to the game! The Warriors have never played in the State Championship game. It was a tough game and they lost on the scoreboard. But our pride was through the roof. That team did more in one season of football than any of us dreamed possible. Not only did they become #2 in the state, they learned how to win!
They came out onto the practice field every day, week after week. They showed up and did the work. That’s winning!
Those boys believed in themselves and were committed to the team. They trusted the coach and grew mentally tough. That’s winning!
They defied the odds and beat last year’s State Champs, and made school history going all the way to the State Championship game. That’s winning!
Sports = Life Lessons
Have you ever been knocked down? Have you ever felt like there was no way you could come out on top? How did you turn it around? Even if you aren’t a huge sports fan, I believe there are so many life lessons that we can learn in watching this team determine their destiny.
How do you break the cycle of losing – how do you shift your mind to believe you are more than your past or your current situation? How do you believe when nobody else does?
I think the thing I love the most is that these players are learning in this fast-paced, instant gratification world that when you stick with something and give it 110% you can do incredible things.
This experience instilled the lesson that hard work, determination, resilience, and belief will get you where you want to go in life.
We all want to be winners in sports, and of course in life, but are we willing to do the work it take to truly win? It’s easy to see the success and think “yay I want that.” But it’s totally different to see the sacrifice and say “Yes! I want that.”
You can’t win in life without losing! Isn’t that a great lesson sports can teach us? In fact, without losing winning doesn’t taste so sweet.