Nov 1, 2009

An Experiment + Boston Bengals

It's commonly understood that blogs are only as good as their newest content. Most blogs die slow quiet deaths when those that post to them either give up or, worse, forget. I don't want that to happen to this blog. As it stands now, I update about two or three times a month. Not terrible, but not awesome either. So here is the challenge. For the month of November I'm going to write one entry every day. This counts. The idea, besides getting used to writing everyday, is to form a habit. I hope the you'll find the entries entertaining, if nothing else. I appreciate feedback so don't hesitate to get in touch with me using the various methods listed to the right. With the preamble finished, let's get to it!

Boston Bengals

In my spare time I coach a Pop Warner football team, the Boston Bengals. This is my second year coaching the team and I can say with much certainty that my two years of coaching experience have been vastly different. I coach 13 - 15-year-old boys. They are at an age when they begin to really develop a sense of identity and how they want to be perceived by others. It's interesting because they deal with the dynamic of being looked at as young black men and many of the stereotypes that are associated with that. However, they also have childlike desires that show in the level of goofiness they display.

We, myself and the other coaches, use football as a technique to teach these boys discipline, patience, commitment and responsibility. All of these concepts take character, something football, as a sport, can teach at any level. We do our best to ingrain these concepts into the boys so that they keep them and grow into responsible adults.

My first year, the team was made up of boys who had been in the Boston Bengals Pop Warner program for several years as well as boys who had played together before. Because of that, our team was more mature than other teams and able to gel faster allowing us to go 7-1 on the season, 8-2 including our playoff record. This year the team was made up of younger boys, many of whom had never played organized football. Our lack of experience lead to a 3-5 season record but also allowed us to grow more than the first team did.

As much as we coaches love winning, we strive to instill in the boys those concepts that I mentioned earlier. It's not easy. But I feel like the reward for succeeding is worth the difficulty. We lost our first five games. I've played on losing teams and and 0-5 stretch is tough to accept. Really, any string of loses is tough to deal with. Not only do you begin to doubt your skill, but you also begin to question your commitment to the sport. Why continue to play a sport, especially a sport like football that beats you up physically, when you aren't at least winning some games?

Despite losing our first five games, we retained a core of boys who continued to show up to practice and, work and and play hard. They were rewarded by going on a three game win streak to close out the season. In our first win, we beat a team by 12 points. Our second win was a come-from-behind victory over another Boston neighborhood program. Our third win was a blow-out, so much so that Pop Warner slaughter rules went into effect during the second half of the game.

These wins, while obviously a product of football skill and execution, are also a testament to the level of character these boys have developed. It would have been incredibly easy for any of them to quit the team and cease playing football, or join their high school team if they were good enough to make the squad. Yet each boy remained through the hardest part to reap the benefits of their patience. All of the boys on this team will remember this season of football. The fact that they went 3-5 may not linger, but the feeling of family and team unity will. I'm proud to have been a part of that. I'm proud to have been able to watch these boys mature over the course of 14 weeks. And I hope they are as proud of themselves as I am of them.

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