When the men of the NFL play the game, it is strategy and skill colliding violently on the field of battle — a sort of human game of chess. It’s technical aerial assaults supported by a crushing ground attack. Whichever team wins the battle in the trenches usually wins the game.
When the boys of the YMCA 8U league play the game, it more closely resembles an interpretive dance I call “Corn Popping.” Once the motion starts, you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen. You might discover your tailback runs faster than Forest Gump. You might start to think your linebacker looks like the next Brian Urlacher. Or your left guard might tackle his own quarterback. And all you can do is shake your head and call the next play. After all, it was his best hit all day.
That’s where we find the South Highlands Tigers second grade team. They started back in September, most of them as green as their practice jerseys. But the boys and girl on this squad have one thing that supersedes experience. They all have heart. Miles and miles of heart.
Take Lily, for instance. She’s all sweetness and smiles on the practice field. But when she straps on that helmet on game day, she becomes our “Princess of Pain.” Don’t think you need to take it easy on her because she’s a girl. If you do, she’ll break your ankles with her one-of-kind “Vortex” move and plant your quarterback in the backfield. And believe me, he will know that he just got tackled by a girl when the crowd roars “Go Lily!” from the sideline.
But these Tigers are learning something more important than Xs and Os. They are becoming something greater than a team. The players, their coaches, and their families are becoming a community, a family. You see it in the way the players show up early and stay late just to spend more time together. You see it in the way the coaches stress being good people even more than being good football players. You see it in the moms, dads, and siblings cheering from the sidelines.
No, the Tigers might not have the most players on the roster. They might not be the biggest players in the league. They won’t go undefeated this season. But I guarantee you, they are fun to watch!