Several years ago I encountered one of the young men I coached in high school (I’ll call him Gabe). We had had no communications since his graduation several years earlier.
As Gabe and I reminisced about “the good old days” we recalled a number of the games and experiences we shared while he was playing football on one of the teams I coached. We might have even added a few embellishments. As well, we caught up on each other’s lives since he had graduated and "moved on." Gabe had gotten married, become a father, and was doing quite well for himself in the profession he had chosen. His evident success and happiness made me proud. I stated as much.
Gabe told me that he had relied often on one of the “speeches” I would regularly give in those tense pre-game moments before the team heads onto the field. My mind quickly rushed back over the numerous admonitions and encouragements I would deliver in those moments of pre-game closeness (one of my favorite parts of coaching was the "brotherhood" involved). I was never sure if the players heard a word of my blatherings just before kickoff.
With a bit of apprehension, I asked Gabe which “speech” he was referencing.
Gabe fixed his eyes firmly on mine and reminded me of this oft-delivered counsel: “Bad things are gonna happen tonight, men. The team that emerges victorious will not be the team that escapes adversity. It’s the team that most effectively responds to the bad things that will be successful in the end.”
I can’t tell you where I first heard those words (might have been my high school football coach), but they obviously resonated with me. In fact, now that I've spent almost six decades in the unpredictable and sometimes turbulent waters of life, those words ring truer now than ever.
Bad things are gonna happen. The only choice we get in the affair is how we react to them. Thanks, Gabe, for remembering, and for the memory.