Not only did you win the state championship, but you accomplished it in dramatic fashion; a game for the ages. If high school prepares you for your future, the crucible of athletics certainly strengthens you for the many adversities you will someday face — for coming from behind, for getting up when you’ve been knocked down, for mustering the courage to face your weaknesses and return from failure.
I would like to commit this column to elucidating some lessons from my perspective. I hope these things come to mind in time of need.
Sticking with it to the end: As London was bombed by the Nazi Luftwaffe and terrorized with V1 rockets, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill spoke to the people with of courage and iron resolve, “…never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
Though you fell behind by 20-0 at the half, you never gave up. You kept moving forward, kept building momentum and slowly, stubbornly, you gained lost ground. I hope later in life, as you face similar circumstances (be assured, they will come), you will recall your resolve and push through the adversity.
Reliance on a team: It took everyone, every play — all of you doing your job in concert with your teammates to make things happen. It took a team of players to prepare each week.
It took a team of coaches to plan and prepare the players. It took teams of parents and supporters to coordinate fund-raising, travel, meals, etc. Never lose sight of this as you move into the adult world. You are not strong enough to go it alone! You need your teammates. Take care of your teammates. Nurture them, encourage them, trust them and recognize their contributions.
Ask for help in time of need: An enormous Payson crowd traveled to cheer you on and encourage you. Many times I saw you raise your arms asking for the crowd to cheer. In fact, I heard one of you remark afterward, “I felt like the crowd was a huge part of the game. We felt strengthened when we heard them.” I’m reminded of the words of an ancient writer, “For this reason, as we are circled by so great a cloud of witnesses, putting off every weight… into which we come so readily; let us keep on running in the way which is marked out for us.”
Later in your life, you will face situations and times when you are desperate for help. Remember the time you waved your arms asking for help from “so great a cloud of witnesses” who fervently desired to lend their assistance. Don’t let pride get in the way.
Make right decisions and stick by them: Your head coach Josh Anderson has made thousands of decisions over the last three years.
Many were fairly clear, others were perhaps as ambiguous as they were difficult. However, the cumulative effect of those decisions equipped you as individuals and a team to overcome the deficit and win the state championship. I hope you will honor Coach Anderson by aspiring to his integrity and his humility. He is certainly a person to emulate.
I am truly blessed to have watched your success. I am blessed to know each of you and to have watched you grow as students, players and young adults. As you make your way from the field and the classroom; from the small pond of Payson High School to the sea of life, I hope the lessons from this year are preserved in your psyche, ready to be used to the fullest for the rest of your life.
Best of luck to all of you and…Go Longhorns!