By Mike Podoll • Associate Publisher • This Is AFCA Magazine
The public misconceptions and long-standing stigmas regarding student-athletes who play high school football are numerous and often mean-spirited. Unrecognized for the scale of their efforts and under-appreciated in general, those young men deserve a salute for ensuring their future success and their coach’s legacy.
Ode To The Grind
A Special Message To High School Football Players
You hear every word that’s said about football players in the school hallways. You read the negative comments posted online by anonymous users. You watch stereotypes being reinforced in the media time-and-again. Yes, you and your teammates are all keenly aware of the labels placed on you by people you have never met.
“Those dumb-jock football players are so stupid.”
“Those privileged football players are so spoiled.”
“Those caveman football players act like animals.”
“Those muscle-headed football players all use steroids.”
“Those violent football players are bullies.”
“Those stupid football players have tutors to do their homework for them.”
“Those coddled football players just have it so easy.”
Yes, you hear all the nonsense. But we know the real truth. There is truth in The Grind.
“Even if you’re not close friends – after The Grind – you are all brothers.”
Those who have never been through The Grind do not know. They cannot know. They are clueless when it comes to The Grind.
The average person isn’t even aware that The Grind exists. They don’t know what you go through and what you’ve sacrificed to wear your school’s football jersey on Friday nights.
They are unaware of all the expectations that are placed upon football players. They don’t know the first thing about what it takes to be a member of the football program, or the honor you feel every time you secure that helmet to your head. They don’t understand the burden of responsibility you owe your teammates, the personal accountability your coaches demand of you (No excuses!), or the level of physical training and mental focus that is required to play football.
People don’t know that you’ve pledged to follow your team’s Code Of Personal Conduct.
When other high school students screw up or get in trouble with the law, they face legal consequences and deal with their parents.
High school football players, however, are held to a higher level of accountability. A football player has pledged to his team’s Code Of Conduct. This means that if YOU screw up, not only will you have to deal with any legal consequences, but you’ll also have to answer to your parents, your coaches, school officials – and worst of all – your teammates.
You’ll be forced to explain to your teammates why – after everyone’s hard work – you chose to let them down. By the way, as a football player, your error in judgment might also make the local news, too.
The Grind is exclusive and its details must remain a fiercely private team matter – to be discussed only with select family members, your coaches, your teachers and your teammates.The Grind is not meant for public eyes and ears. Outsiders do not deserve to know about The Grind. They have not earned the privilege of knowing. But you have.
The Grind means accepting the drudgery of 200-plus workouts and practices every year – often done during the unrelenting heat of summer or in a dark, lonely weight room when other high school students are nowhere to be found.
All this extra effort is on top of the normal school work that other students do. You and your teammate-brothers put in all this work – just for the privilege to play in less than a dozen football games each season.
The Grind is the great equalizer. The Grind sees no differences in skin color, no rich or poor people, no personal conflicts, and no time to waste energy on things that do not matter. The Grind doesn’t care about these things. There is only The Grind.
You devote yourself to The Grind and it is difficult. After high school, you and the vast majority of your teammates will never play a single snap of college football. So why do you it?
Why pledge yourself to The Grind?
You do it because The Grind is an Effort Bank. Your effort bank account is filled with deposits of your blood, sweat and tears – made repeatedly over four years as a member of your team. The dividends will be paid out richly for the rest of your life.
Thanks to The Grind, you will be prepared to excel in college. In any future job or career, you will out-work and out-perform your coworkers. You will be successful; The Grind makes sure of that.
You will have a lifelong bond with your teammates and coaches. Even if you’re not close friends – after The Grind – you are all brothers.
The Grind rewards you handsomely. So let the outsiders talk their garbage about football players. They’ll never know.
Thank you for the personal sacrifices you’ve made for OUR football program.
Now get back in the weight room and push some steel.
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