This guy had a rough game. If you look carefully you can see the pain in his eyes. 351 days ago this guy had a fluke injury that was season ending and frankly, looked career ending. But, he worked his way back and earned a starting position this year. He's had an awesome year on and off the field. A team leader who is looked up to by our team. He's challenged our coaches to be their best and has helped everyone learn how to better lead this team. This weekend, 351 days from a season ending injury he received another season ending injury; quite possibly career ending.
I was across the field from the team tending to this guy, and yet we could tell it was bad. I spoke on the phone with the student trainer, having a solid relationship with this guy I knew he's need a pep talk. It was hard not the think "not again!". I waited until half time and wandered over to the locker room. I was met by the athletic trainer who told me he was waiting to talk to me. As the team left for the second half this guy's roommate pulled me aside to also tell me he was waiting to talk to me, you see, it was game day, and the coaches were busy, but the blessing of my role is I'm behind the scenes, so I'm never to busy.
I listened, we cried, we talked about the hope of maybe, I allowed the why questions to pour out. I allowed the "It's not fair" statements to be said, and then we prayed. We prayed for peace, understanding, God's strength and healing. We took the long walk back to the sidelines and I gave this guy a job. He was to lead the sideline, keep the team engaged and support his team though the second half. He did it. He did it well. Not because I told him to, but because he knew he needed to, that's what a leader does.
We had a victory Saturday, and after the game some players on the team made a point to thank this guy for his encouragement. I'm sure the guys knew how hard it was to have to cheer, injured, from the sidelines and they appreciated it. I don't know what will happen long term, but I do know that there was a valuable lesson worked through Saturday: responding in a tough time. 5 weeks left in the season and we are in the thick of exhaustion, frustration, injuries and behavior issues. It can be really easy to loose sight of the mission statement. The blessing of being behind the scenes is being able to see the response, and being reminded we are helping to shape futures.