Numbers Don’t Tell the Whole Story

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Numbers are a form of measurement – they are objective, concrete, non-negotiable.

Numbers tell a story – one that speaks every language.

My guy is the head football coach at Ruffner Middle School, and this season consisted of:  1 team – 4 coaches – 6 games – 30 players – 40 days of practice – 68 hours on the field.

They lost 1 game in overtime, and won 1 game in triple overtime.  They lost 1 game by 6 points, and won 1 game by 44 points.  They forfeited 1 game, due to 1 piece of misinformation.  They ended their season with 3 wins and 3 losses.

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Football is a game with winners and losers.  It’s as simple as that.

Or is it?  Sometimes numbers don’t tell the whole story!

The story behind the Ruffner Middle School football team can’t be counted, quantified or measured.  This story must be seen, heard, felt.  It must be experienced first hand.  This was the story of life, taught through the game of football.

I’ve been to countless end of the season banquets for both of my boys, covering a variety different sports.  But I’ve never attended one quite like Ruffner’s banquet.  Sure, there were certificates, medals and trophies.  There was mention of a few game changing plays.  There was clapping and laughter.

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But what I wasn’t expecting to experience was the depth of relationship that developed, in just 90 days, between 30 under privileged teenage boys and my guy.  I wasn’t expecting to see a team of middle school boys hanging on every word their coach said.  I wasn’t expecting to see these boys honor and acknowledge each other.  I wasn’t expecting to hear these teens recite back, verbatim, the words their coach had preached the past few months.

It was obvious the relationships went well beyond the game of football.

The time left on the clock, the yards rushing, the touchdowns scored – those can all be measured.  What can’t be measured are the lessons that my guy ingrained in these young men during the football season.

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Who I Am – My guy made two promises to his team.  He promised he would never lie to them, and that he would never give up on them.  He shared this from the first day he met them, and he repeated it every day after.  He demonstrated character and trust, in hopes that they would follow his lead.

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Who This Team Will Be – His team motto was CT2 – which stood for Character, Trust, Team.  This was what he expected from his team, and he accepted no less!  He gave them the opportunity to be young men of character, both on and off the field.  He gave them the opportunity to trust him and each other, even though their trust had been broken repeatedly in the past.  He gave them to opportunity to put the greater good, the team, before their individual wants and desires.

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How You Can Succeed in Life – He shared his belief that their individual success (as well as the team’s success) would ultimately be determined by their ability to overcome adversity.  Adversity – difficulties, misfortune, a state of hardship.  Not a single player on the team even knew what that word meant before they met their coach.  And yet all of them had faced it, more often than a teenager should have to!  Yet few knew how to overcome adversity, to choose to be resilient, determined and focused.

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What can’t be measured is the degree of difference my guy made as Ruffner’s football coach.  You can’t quantify mentoring, motivation, inspiration, trust or belief.

The respect and joy that I witnessed during the team’s banquet was a more telling story than any number could be.

Winning feels good, but knowing you impacted a life, that’s immeasurable!

with Joy & Gratitude,

Hello Curve Ball!

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My day was perfectly planned.  Planned for everything, but the unexpected.  While sitting at Starbucks writing (what was supposed to be today’s blog piece), I received the dreaded phone call.  It’s the call that makes your heart sink when you see the phone number pop up, the call from your kid’s school.  With urgency, yet slight hesitation, I answered the call to hear my little guy on the other end.  Before he could finish saying “Hey Mom”, I blurted out “Are you OK?”.  His response was “Sort of….”, which I instantly knew meant something was wrong, but he didn’t want to tell me.

Apparently he was playing football in gym, and while running with the ball in his left (dominant) hand, he was accidentally tripped and fell full force onto the left side back of his hand.  Having broken his thumbs five different times over the course of  two football seasons, he was familiar with the pain of a broken bone, and was pretty certain his hand was broken.

Hello Curve Ball…..and there goes my perfectly planned day!

A baseball player pitching with spin on the ball. (motion blur on ball)

Some weeks I’m able to write days in advance, other weeks I find myself backed into a self imposed corner, writing at the last minute.  Today was one of those squeak it out kind of days, and by the time I received the dreaded phone call, I was just half way through writing.

I never made a public announcement, but my commitment, both to myself and to my readers, has been to be consistent and publish three times a week – on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  I’ve been able to accomplish that for almost 5 months, but now I was being tested.

I couldn’t possibly recover from today’s curve ball…..

Or could I?

Do I crumble under pressure?  Get stressed and overwhelmed?  Worry more about how to share my blog than how to care for my son’s injured hand?

Or….

Do I ebb and flow?  Roll with the punches?  Catch the curve ball instead of letting it hit me in the face?

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Today was a perfect day to practice what I preach.  To embrace that which I could not control, and choose to have an awesome day anyway.

In all the imperfections of this day, here is what I’m GRATEFUL for…..

*  A friend of a friend got us in to see a sports physician within the hour.

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*  The doctor had the most amazing bed side manner.

*  We left with a doctor’s note stating that my little guy couldn’t write or type tonight – which meant NO homework.

*  Our next stop was the emergency room for x-rays.  With a doctor’s prescription in hand, we were quickly moved to the outpatient department, completing the entire process in under a shocking 20 minutes!

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*  Although we spent a total of 3 hours in the doctor’s office, traveling to the emergency room and getting x-rays, we still managed to get to my guy’s football game just in time to watch the opening kick off.

*  The Ruffner Middle School team was dressed in their traditional green and gold…with a splash of PINK for Breast Cancer Awareness month.

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*  Just 30 minutes into the game I received a phone call from the doctor letting me know that he reviewed the x-rays and there were NO broken bones, just severe bruising that would require ice and rest.  Can I hear a WOO HOO!!??

*  The game ended 28-28, taking it into over time.  Over time ended 34-34, leading to double over time.  Double over time came to a close with a score of 42-42…..hence TRIPLE OVER TIME – with a final score of 48-42 – RUFFNER BULLDOGS WIN!!!!

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Today was a great day.  It didn’t go anything like I had planned.  I ebbed away from my role as a blogger, and flowed into my roles of mom, nursemaid, wife and football fan.

Just remember….when life gives you lemons, make a lemon drop martini!

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with Joy & Gratitude,

Standing Firm in Your Beliefs

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I won’t hesitate to shout someone out when they deserve recognition.  I also won’t hold back from throwing someone under the bus (nameless if need be) in order to share a learning moment.  Today – I will do BOTH!

There’s been a bit of a battle taking place in my family recently.  It’s been an unfair battle of three against one.  Instincts might tell you there is power in numbers, and in our house, that’s often the case.  But truth be told, the minority can over power the majority if they stand firm in their conviction.

My guy has a career and a passion.  Unfortunately they are not one in the same.  His building business pays the bills, but his heart is on the football field.

His passion is coaching youth football, specifically middle school aged kids.  And not just any middle school boys, but more precisely, the segment of the population that is defined as ‘under privileged’.  He has no desire to simply teach the X’s and O’s of the game of football to a bunch of silver spooned kids.

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What he thrives on is having the opportunity to make a difference with teenage boys that need him most.  He uses the game of football as a microcosm to teach the game of life.  His goal is to instill concepts and characteristics in his players such as team work, respect, commitment, overcoming adversity, integrity and giving 100% of yourself…all in hopes of helping them develop into the men he knows they can be.

With that said, you’d think his family would support him wholeheartedly, right?

My guy had this great idea of hosting a pool party at our home for his football team.  The only problem was we didn’t think it was such a great idea!

His purpose was two-fold.  He believed the pool party would create a setting for team bonding, and give the boys the opportunity to experience the lifestyle we’ve worked for, so they could see, touch and feel what is possible with an education, commitment and hard work.  Given that most of these kids come from broken families, some not even living with either parent, he felt it was critical that all four of us come together and participate in this event, so the players could experience being around an intact family.

Yet we still didn’t support him!

We were quick to tell him all the reasons why we thought this was a bad idea, why it wouldn’t work and why we didn’t want to be involved.  We debated, like lawyers trying to win the case of a lifetime.

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But my guy stood so firm in his beliefs,  you would think his feet were sunk in concrete!  He willingly engaged in repeated verbal combat with both his teenage boys and his lovely bride (me!), because he knew in his heart and soul that what he was fighting for mattered more than the temporary discomfort of the argument.

ONE against THREE – my guy won.  The team pool party was this past Sunday.

He didn’t just win because we gave in to his idea of hosting the party at our home.  He didn’t just win because we engaged and participated like he requested.  He WON because he didn’t falter from what he believed in, and in the process he won us over!

We certainly didn’t realize it at the time, but ALL of our opposition was based in fear of the unknown and selfishness!    If I have to be honest, it was mostly selfishness.  (Did you just hear the bus run over us?)

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Irony is, he actually chartered a bus to transport the team to our home.  As it parked in our cul de sac, the boys filed off, each wearing their team t-shirt.  I’m not sure who was more nervous, them or us?  The players tentatively walked up the driveway towards me and my boys, where one by one they greeted us.  A few boys shook my hand firmly, and introduced themselves with pride and confidence.  But many could barely look me in the eyes and mumbled their names.  For those players, I held their hands longer, instinctively placing my left hand on top of our handshake and asking them to say their name again so I could repeat it back.

These boys had me at ‘Hello’!

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It didn’t take but a minute or two following the formal introductions for the football team of under privileged kids to simply become a group of teenage boys doing what teenage boys do!

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They started swimming, playing basketball, jumping on the trampoline, throwing the football, playing ping pong and tossing bean bags at the corn hole boards.

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For hours, they laughed, splashed, and played.  My back yard was filled with an overwhelming amount of JOY!  A team of 30 boys, a coaching staff of 3 men, a school principal, a team mom and a family of 4 came together for an afternoon I will never, ever forget.

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My guy and the boys – joking around!

When the day came to an end, the team thanked us for inviting them over and sharing our home with them.  They were grateful, and they weren’t afraid to express it.  Once they found their seats for their ride back home, I boarded the bus, and for the first time all day, I spoke to the team as a whole.  I thanked them for being respectful and polite, and I welcomed them back to my home any time!  I told them to look in the stands because we would be there Wednesday night to cheer them on for their first football game of the season.

As I walked off the bus I felt the tears well up in my eyes.  They were tears of sadness for the circumstances most of them were returning to.  But they were mixed with tears of joy, because I believed the team had touched our hearts as much (if not more) than we touched theirs!

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My guy and his Ruffner Middle School football team

Words can’t express how proud I am of my guy!  He has faced challenges all around him.  People in the very community he is attempting to help have questioned his motives, while people in his own family were less than supportive and quite selfish.  But he continues to stand firm in his conviction and won’t let any obstacle deter him from fulfilling his purpose!

Tonight is the team’s first football game of the season, and we can’t wait to cheer them on!  GO BULL DOGS!

Oh, the lessons you can learn under your own roof……

with Joy & Gratitude,

Are you ready for some football?

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There are things in our life that trigger a flood of good memories, that make us feel giddy with excitement, that we look forward to with utter anticipation.  Do you know what I’m talking about?  That something that seems inconsequential, yet holds so much meaning in our life.

It may be a holiday, a particular food, a family tradition, a time of year……

Mine something is FOOTBALL!  I know, it sounds crazy, right?

Sure, it’s just a game.  A mighty violent and aggressive game at that!  But I have a long and evolving history with the game of football.  No – I wasn’t one of those girls that learned to love the game on the field, playing flag football with a team full of boys.  Although looking back, that would have been FUN!

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My football story began in the living room.  My Dad was very active on the weekends, always running errands or working on odd jobs around the house.  But on Sunday afternoons in the Fall, he would settle into his leather chair and I would join him in the living room for a few hours of football.  I had no idea what I was watching.  All I saw was two groups of colorfully dressed men diving into a big pile.  The fact that I didn’t understand the game was irrelevant, I was just happy to be hanging out with my Dad.

It wasn’t until college that I began to really understand the game of football.  My college roommates were die-hard fans that perpetuated my childhood tradition of hanging out in the living room on Sunday afternoons to watch football.  Their passion and enthusiasm for the game fueled my desire to not just watch it, but to understand it.  I have to credit them with teaching me the game of football….and thank them for their patience in putting up with me constantly asking questions while they were trying to enjoy the game.

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After college I moved to Washington, DC, and was fortunate to be living closer to my  grandparents, my aunt, uncle and cousins….and the Redskins.  My extended family was passionate about football, and the Redskins in particular, so my Sunday afternoon football watching tradition continued!  Most of the time we watched from the living room, but thanks to my Poppy having Redskin tickets, I was give the opportunity to be a fan in the stands as well!  The energy and excitement of watching the game in person deepened my attachment to the sport.

Then I met my guy.  Little did either of us know when we first met, how much the other loved football…..or how integral football would become in our lives.

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I already loved the NFL, but my guy exposed me to a whole new world of college football.  Our courtship included attending ALL of the University of Virginia’s home football games, as well as many of the away games.  The one adjustment I had to make was that coming from the north, football attire consisted of jeans and a sweatshirt.  Apparently, that was not how it was done in the south.  So I quickly learned to watch football in a sundress and sandals.

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Both of our boys attended their first football games while in utero.  They’ve been raised, almost cult like, to be football fans.  Although they have the freedom to cheer on any team of their choice, it’s no surprise that they’ve followed in their parent’s footsteps and gladly cheer for UVA and the REDSKINS.

The boy’s football experience wasn’t confined to being a fan.   They both played a combination of flag football, youth tackle and middle school football.  During this time, my guy took his love for football to a deeper level, coaching the boys through their football journeys.  Together as a family, we experienced the highs of a city championship along with the lows of repeated injuries.

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Ben – white & red uniform #25

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Pete – red & white uniform #21

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Coach and player ON the field…..father and son OFF the field.

Over the years, the boys narrowed down their sport of choice to something other than football.  On the flip side, my guy discovered both his passion and his purpose as a football coach.  He has been coaching middle school football for the past 3 seasons, not for his children, but for a team full of boys that need a positive male role model, a mentor and the opportunity to learn character, teamwork and trust…..both on and off the field.

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Football – it’s a family thing! Sporting a combination of attire from our 2 favorite teams!

I used to think I loved football because it signified the start of Fall, my all time favorite season.  But I’ve realized it goes so much deeper than that.  Yes, I AM a die-hard football fan, who on occasion has sat in my living room, all by myself, watching a game.  But my real love for football grew from sharing the game with people I love.

For many, it’s just a game, inconsequential in the scope of life.  Yet it’s my trigger….that thing that makes me feel giddy with excitement, that I look forward to with utter anticipation.  For me, it’s so much more than just a game!

I know I’m not the only football fan out there!  Go ahead – shout out YOUR team!  What’s your favorite thing about football?  If it’s NOT football, what feel good trigger do you have?

with Joy & Gratitude,