As I peeled the sweaty, grass–stained clothes from my aching body, I thought about the last three exhausting weeks at football camp. By the grace of God I'd endured agonizing two–a–day practices loaded down in huge pads and melting in the hot August sun. When I ran, I felt like I'd pass out. When I stopped running, I was sure I'd throw up.
I wanted to feel the glory of a winning touchdown, but instead I went home every night bruised, battered, sore and stiff. I was sick of being hit, shoved, pushed down, beaten up. I'd had it. I decided to quit. Nervous about making my big announcement, I slowly made my way over to Coach Walker's* office door and knocked.
"Yeah!" Coach yelled, his voice raspy from years of shouting.
I stepped inside.
"Whatcha need, Casbon?" he asked as he scanned the newspaper that was sprawled out across his desk.
I took a deep breath and cleared my throat. I didn't know how to ease into it, so I just blurted it out.
"I quit," I said.
Seemingly unfazed, Coach kept his eyes glued to the sports section.
"Why?" he asked in his familiar gruff tone.
"I'm not having any fun," I said lamely.
Coach closed the paper, adjusted his tattered baseball cap, and looked me straight in the eye.
"Cazzie, do you think anyone is having fun right now?" he asked.
I just shrugged.
"Son," he said, leaning in toward me. "These practices prepare you for the games. That's when the fun begins."
Yeah, right, I thought. Like I'll ever make it into a game. I never ran any play right. No matter how clearly the coach explained everything on paper, once I got on the field and the ball was snapped, the chaos of guys scattering every which way completely confused me.
Coach Walker placed his hand on my shoulder and said, "I'll make ya a deal. Stick it out this year and if you don't wanna come out again next fall, I won't hassle ya about it."
It sure didn't seem like a "deal" to me, but since no one ever won an argument with Coach Walker, I agreed.
When I got home from school, I hurled my book bag across the room and kicked my dirty Nikes high into the air.
"What's with you?!" my brother Scott asked as he jumped out of the way of a flying shoe.
"Why can't God let me shine in one stinkin' sport?!" I complained. "Is that too much to ask?"
I told Scott about the "deal" Coach had struck with me, and Scott smiled.
"I'm glad you're not giving up this time," he said, tossing me a Nerf football.
"When have I given up?" I snapped, purposefully nailing him in the thigh with the Nerf.
"Uhhh, baseball, basketball, piano." Scott said. "Want me to go on?"
"I just haven't found my thing yet."
"And at this rate, you never will," Scott said. "You can't do great at something the first time you try it."
"First time?! I've been at this for three weeks!"
"Some of the guys on your team have been practicing for years. Of course they're better than you."
"Thanks a lot!" I said, rolling my eyes.
"Listen, anything worth having takes effort," Scott said. "Like your good grades. That doesn't happen by accident."