Rob Oxford: Every Game Means Something

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Rob Oxford at his radio show

By Rob Oxford

The end of this year’s high school football season has come much too soon for my liking. Call it an obsession if you wish, but between the months of August and November, I am consumed with the sport.

From watching our local Highlanders and Richmond Junior Bulldogs to cheering for our Huskies and Seahawks, football keeps me well entertained.

I will enjoy one more year of watching my son compete at the high school level and supporting his team. Then it will be another parents’ duty to preside over the Highlander Football Gridiron Group. 

A torch my wife and I will regret having to pass, but one we both hope will burn bright for many years to come.

I received a private message recently from a friend whose son decided to play organized football for the first time this season. She was responding to a comment I had made on Facebook. It was her son’s senior year in high school and up until this year, he hadn’t shown much interest in the sport.

At the beginning of the season I doubt this young man expected to play all that much let alone start. Regardless, he worked hard to learn his position. Attending practice each day and proudly wearing his uniform each Friday night, he developed a relationship with his teammates. One that I witnessed personally and one his coaches certainly recognized.

His parents attended his games. Cheering for their son and his team, patiently waiting to see him participate. Secretly hoping that maybe tonight would be the night.

I mention this in part because some parents, at times mine included, fail to find the importance of being in the stands and rooting for a child who may or may not get much if any playing time.

I remember during high school my father asking if tonight I thought I would “get to play?” My honest response which was quite often “no”, usually dictated whether or not I would see him in the stands later that evening.

The point I hope to make is this, whether your child starts or plays at all … doesn’t matter.

The fact that you took the time to be present, that you found nothing more important to do during those few hours than be there for them, will leave an impact long remembered and appreciated.

Of course, we want to see them play. We want to see them make a game saving tackle or score the game winning touchdown. But quite often those things mean more to us than they do to them.

During the season this young man was fortunate to experience some time on the field. Although limited and usually when his team was up by several touchdowns, he took his role seriously and by all accounts did very well.

Unfortunately, his team had been eliminated from the playoffs sooner than everyone had hoped. This meant that together they would have one final game. One final opportunity to take the field as brothers in battle.

On the Monday that started their final week of practice, one of his teammates had decided to quit. Considering they had been eliminated from progressing further in search of a district championship, it was reported that the player felt this final game “didn’t mean anything”. It was in essence a consolation game.

Personally, I found this extremely disturbing. Quitting is not in my vocabulary and I have taught my sons that to do so is unacceptable.

An extremely talented athlete, this starting player may have had other more complex reasons for his departure. However, if he had he failed to share them with his coaches or “former” teammates.

At the suggestion of a good friend and mentor, I took some time preparing this article. I didn’t want its purpose being lost.

My intention is not to focus on the fact that in my opinion one player made a poor decision and decided to walk away from his team. Therefore, abandoning the opportunity to end his senior season on a high note.

Instead I hope to convey the message that every game means something. Whether a championship is at stake, the opportunity to set a record or break a losing streak, every game means something.

What it meant to one family in particular was an opportunity to fulfill a dream. Because of this players belief that this last game “didn’t mean anything”, another player was given the opportunity to be the “next man up” and his mother was afforded the opportunity to hear her sons name called over the loudspeaker as a starter for the first time all season.

Neither of them quit. She kept coming regardless of the amount of playing time her son was receiving and he kept coming to practice, in preparation to answer the call if and when it came.

Although she agreed with me that the player who quit the team’s decision to do so was perplexing and that she hoped his decision to do so wouldn’t affect him long term, her private message also expressed how watching her son play in his final game as a senior was well worth the many cold nights she sat there waiting for him to get his chance. She described the pride she felt in hearing his name called upon making tackles and what it meant to him to finally have the opportunity to contribute to the success of his team.

Although they appear to be a thing of the past, where I grew up that one start would have been enough to earn a player a highly sought-after Letterman’s Jacket. Although many sizes too small, mine still holds a special place in the corner of my closet.

In an impressive manner, the team went on to win their final game against a very talented opponent, capping off the best season their current coach has every experienced.

You can bet that to him, that final game meant everything.


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