It's 7 weeks into the season. There's under 2 minutes left in the game. It's 4th and 4. Your opponent has the ball on their 40 yard line. Your team is up by a touchdown. A stop here puts the ball back into the hands of your offense. They can run out the clock and keep your hopes of an Area Championship alive.
You're tired. Dirty. Sweaty. The ankle you tweaked back in game 2 is trying to bother you again. Your legs want to cramp up. Your knees want to buckle. But, you come to the line. You look your opponent in the eye knowing that if they're going to get those 4 yards, they're going to have to come through you first. You're not about to let that happen. Neither is anyone else wearing the same jersey as you. Not on this or any other night...
The time to find out if you've really got anything left isn't when the ball is snapped. No, it's far too late for that. And, you can't just decide to dig deep and find a little more toughness. It doesn't work like that. You can't just find it. It has to be there already. And, you have to know it. You have no time to doubt or hesitate.
You come to that line and you make the play. Not because you "want it" more than the other guy, but because you're stronger, better conditioned, and more prepared than he is. And you didn't get that way during the last timeout or even the last week of practice. It happened in the summer.
We think of football as a fall sport. But every player, coach, and member of their families know that the work begins in the summer. It was something that took some getting used to for me. I didn't understand why so much time had to be spent in the weight room, at camps, etc. I mean, it's Summer!!
But, I've come to appreciate how important it really is. Games are won and lost in the weight room. Those players are going to batter and bruise their bodies for 10-15 weeks straight. They have to be in the best physical condition possible. They will face opponents who are bigger and faster than they are. There's little they can do about their size and speed, but they can make sure that the other guy isn't stronger. They can make sure no one out works them.
So, they show up. Three or 4 times a week. Even though it's WORK. Even though they'd rather be at the beach or the movies or at home in bed or playing a sport that doesn't demand so much of them. And they do it because they "want it" more. Because there's nothing else like it. Because when that ball is snapped and that other team's QB gets popped before he can even make the hand off to the tailback...they get to be heroes.
Summer workouts do more than make champions. It separates the men from the boys. It reveals those who have in them what it takes to be successful. In football. And in anything else they want to accomplish. Because the ones who make it though summer know they have what it takes to make one more play, to fight though adversity, to get everything they can out of themselves. Not every one has that in them.
The coaches know that. That's why they give up their summers and push the guys so hard. They know it makes them better, more successful later. They're giving them every chance they can.
So, the next time you watch your hometown heroes play on Friday night, remember what all they've done for themselves, they're school, and their communities. That ought to make you proud. I know I'm proud of Coach's Bulldogs for the work they've done. I can't wait to see it pay off for them.