A little story for my rugby buddies.
Firstly though, a Movember update. Donations are a little slow, which is disheartening. Even if you can throw $5 to the cause it will be of great help.
So donate here.
As for the moustache itself, my Mum says she can see it over Skype, so it can’t be *too* bad. As for the Move Challenge, it has been tough finding time as I haven’t had a real day off in a while, but somehow the hours get put in. The NAMP Conference in Utah was great. And I was going to blog about the experience until something happened yesterday that changed my mind.
My rugby team here in Connecticut, the Fairfield Yankees, had the chance yesterday to go for an undefeated season by beating top of the table rivals Danbury in an away game. We missed out by an agonizing 5 point margin to a try scored in the final minutes of one of the toughest, high quality games of rugby I have seen at this level of the game. Both teams played out of their skins.
It was heartbreaking. Tears were shed. Words failed us.
And somewhere in the midst of all this emotion a memory of my childhood came back to me, firstly haunting, then inspiring. It’s one that I feel is worth sharing in order to inspire our team as we move to the next phase of a winter break and then to the regional playoffs.
So this one is for the men of the Fairfield Yankees RFC.
I know you will be waking up today heartbroken, and possibly hungover. Losing hurts, and this loss probably hurts more than any you have had. To be so close, and yet miss out. Topping the table is little consolation.
I know how you feel. Because I’ve been there before.
A full 24 years ago, I played on a team back in Australia, a group of boys from the same class in elementary school. We weren’t polished athletes, but we were a brotherhood of friends, who worked together towards a common goal. In only our second season as a team, we dominated the competition. Our reputation in our school was such that we even got special permission to get out of class to go train, something unprecedented. A team of 8 year old boys, training like our sporting heroes. Game after game, we turned up focused, ready to win. We were unstoppable.
Until the last game of the regular season.
It was a weeknight game in the outer suburbs, under spotlights and the last remnants of a red sunset. It all went wrong. It was not as if we forgot how to play, but it felt as much. Nothing we did seemed to work. Our opposition had an answer for everything we tried, and ran riot over us. We were outplayed at every turn. I still vividly remember at one point watching the ball sail over my head, me jumping meekly to grab it, though knowing it was higher than even an adult could jump. By the time I could even turn to go after it, more points were on the board. I felt like my legs had turned to concrete, like time itself had slowed down.
Point after point got added against us. It hurt. We were in shock. When the game finally ended we slumped down, exhausted and beaten. We were just boys. Boys too young to know heartbreak, too young to have fallen in love and lost, too young to have faced off against the indifferent cruelty of the world.
We couldn’t understand these feelings. All we knew was that we didn’t like them.
We went home that night confused and scared. Our regular season had ended not in glory but in sorrow. Being top of the table didn’t matter one bit to us. To make matters worse, the first playoff game was only a few days away. And it was against the very same team who had that night humiliated us. A loss this time would mean the end of our season.
In our own way, and as best as 8 year olds could, we resolved not to let that happen. When that playoff game started, we all felt more focused, more clinical, more ruthless. Even if we were too young to be able to spell such words, we articulated it as a feeling, a righteous anger and determination to never feel that way again. We all shared that feeling, and we banded together, trusted each other.
We destroyed that team that day. We did not stop while we were ahead, we showed no mercy, and we silenced any and every critic (if such critics existed for elementary school sports leagues in Northwest Canberra). Our march through the finals continued from there. Game after game not one team could even get close to us. We swept all before us and won that championship. We were victorious.
But here’s the thing.
I barely have a memory of the grand final game. There are faint images of the trophy presentations afterwards, the glow of happiness of reaching the top, the smiles on the faces of my team mates, the pride of my father. I can only vaguely recall our names being announced in the school assembly the next week by the principal. All ephemeral memories of a distant childhood.
But 24 years later, I can still remember that game we lost. The shock, the paralysis, the heartbreak. The ball that sailed over my head is so vivid that even now I can see the stitching and the grains of dirt flying by.
Teammates of Fairfield, brothers, family. You won’t forget yesterday, and I’m sorry to say that. However, you can choose to wallow in that heartbreak, or you can use it as a catalyzing force to achieve even greater success. You can choose to do everything in your power to not feel that way again, and you can do so knowing that each and every one of your teammates will be resolving to do the same.
We will be stronger for this.
Today is not the first day of the off-season, it’s the first day of our march towards the National Championships.
See you at training.
Observations on music, coffee, and the occasional controversial thought.
Copyright © Gerard Atkinson 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the owner is strictly prohibited.