I never won a state championship as a high school player. I did watch one from the inside (and how it developed) when I was at Westminster (my previous school). Please forgive the length but this is a story worth telling.
This particular soccer season started with lots of predictions of bad results. The team had lost a D1 player the year before and there was only 1 senior on the returning team. To my recollection there were maybe 2-3 juniors, and a bunch of sophomores, and a lot of 9th, 8th, and even a couple of 7th graders (we did not have a MS team). This team played in the 1A-3A division of Alabama public schools (AHSAA). Alabama has 7 divisions, so this division included schools that might have as many as 1000 students K-12 (we had about 500 total).
No one thought the team would have a winning season. Well, no one except the one senior. He told me that he wanted to win a state championship. This student had been on the only other state championship team as a 7th grader, and that team had beenloaded. I was surprised at the goal but did not want to dampen his beliefs, so I asked what his plan was. He told me that they were going to be in better shape than anyone else and that they would play as a unit with determined intensity. By the way, in the previous year the team, although strong with talented seniors, was disjointed, to say the least. There was no team unity.
As the season progressed I was impressed by three things. First, the way that he made sure that everyone on the team respected and accepted everyone else on the team regardless of grade. Second, how many times I left the school late in the day after practices were over and saw this team sitting in the parking lot just playing music and laughing. Third was watching them do the beep test after practice, after the coach had left, to be the best in shape team they could be. I watched them do this a few times. The girls’ soccer team (in AL both play in the same season) sat on the hill above the field and watched. The senior leading kept saying out loud, “This is for the state championship!,” to which the boys ran and the girls sat and laughed at them, knowing it was a pipe dream.
As the season progressed, they won games they should not have (they beat a 7A team) and lost to some they should have won. Come playoff time, they won a dramatic game against a local rival that had nine seniors and was, in their coach’s opinion, the best team he ever had (they had won multiple state titles). The night before the semifinal one of the parents held a dinner for the team. The dad asked the players if there was anything the team wanted to say to the senior (who was the captain). They all told him how much at times they were unhappy with him over the running and how ridiculous it was that he kept saying they were going to win the state championship but yet, here they were, two wins away.
The team won the semifinal beating, another perennial top soccer program and prepared for a state championship game. This is the result of the championship game.
I believe more than ever that goal setting is the beginning of fulfilling dreams. More than that it took hard physical work, sacrifice, and unity of a group of young men. Oh, and the intentional words of a senior captain that made his team believe that they could accomplish their goal, over and over, against all the sneers and laughing. This is why I believe in goal setting and all the work it takes to get there. This is an example of a transformational experience I want for all our students. Not just winning championships. That was a fruit of their goal. But all of these boys have incredible stories of how that season impacted who they are as men today and what they have done with their lives since. If you ever want to talk about that, let me know. I would love to do that here but I have gone on too long already.
So my questions for you are as follows. What are your teams goals? Do you and they talk about them regularly? Are you focused and working harder than anyone else toward them? Are they working as a unit? Are the older ones respecting and including the younger ones?
Just some food for thought.
More Posts by This Author:
- 7 Habits of a Godly Benchwarmer
- A Christian Perspective on Athletics
- A Classical Perspective on Athletics
- Doing Your Best?
- Dysfunctional Team, or Functional Team
- Goal Setting, Part 2
- Grit, Part 1
- Hard Things
- In Pursuit of Excellence
- Narrow the Focus
- Parent Expectations
- Playing Time
- Strong in the Storm
- Team Building – When the Game Stands Tall
- The “Why”
- The Power of a Program
- The Value of Competition
- The Value of Winning
- Transformational Coach vs. Transactional Coach