You Never Know Until You Try.

It was the biggest project of my young life. I was a pretty typical sixth grade boy, looking forward to junior high and the chance to play football on a real team with uniforms and everything. This was long before the coming of youth football, peewees and mighty mites. My experience was pretty much just sandlot football games with my brothers and the kids in the neighborhood, but that didn't keep me from dreaming of huge crowds and Heismans and Super Bowls and even the hall of fame. If you're gonna dream, might as well dream big.

So, as a budding Vince Lombardi, I decided to organize a football club for all the sixth graders in our little town that wanted to learn about football and get ready for junior high competition. I wrote down my plan on a couple of pieces of notebook paper, and the school secretary, Mrs. Sloan, was nice enough to type it up for me. Then I drew up a flyer for the newly created Phantom Football Club announcing the Saturday afternoon of our first meeting and inviting everybody to participate. The principal even let me go around and talk to each class and pass out my flyers.

Soon the big day arrived. We were having our first meeting of the Phantom Football Club in the vacant lot beside our house. I had one ball and one tee and that was it - no plan, no help, no adults, no equipment, no first aid kit, just me and my football. My mother told me not to get my hopes up too high for that first day or I might be disappointed. My brothers assured me that I was an idiot and no one would come.

Well, much to my surprise and shock, just about every kid in the county showed up that day, maybe 60 or 70 sixth grade boys! (As my mom remembers it now, more like 200 showed up.) Being the expert and the leader of this near riot, I had us all just choose up sides and play a football game, about 35 on each side, with everyone playing all the time, tackle of course, only sissies play touch. Within ten minutes my mother was running a M.A.S.H. unit in our kitchen, patching up the bloody mouths of two or three boys who had braces, putting ice on all kinds of bumps and bruises and bloody noses, and trying to put broken glasses back together. There were torn clothes, ripped jackets, even pulled hair, but the game must go on. After three hours we all looked like we had been attacked by wild bears. Mothers came by to pick up their boys and not too many were smiling as they left.

As you might guess attendance at the second meeting of the Phantom Football Club the next Saturday took a dramatic drop to about eight guys, pretty much the same guys I played football with all the time.

So, what did I learn from this football fiasco? Well, first I learned to be careful what you wish for. You just might get it. And, seventy boys on the same field with one ball is not a football game. It is civil war. I also learned that even good ideas need help, maybe a little planning, and some preparation. And last of all I learned that this whole coaching thing is a little tougher than it looks. To this day, I have always had great respect for those who coach, especially those who coach kids.

Have you ever jumped in over your head? Ever try something new that succeeded beyond your wildest expectations? What about being caught totally unprepared and unequipped to handle some new challenge?


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