“Dylan, are you excited about the game tonight?” Allison asked barely able to contain the enthusiasm in her voice.
“Yeah, sure,” Dylan mustered out in response.
Dylan was in his freshmen year in high school and the final game between his team, the Rattlers, and their rival school, the Pirates, was tonight. While he was ecstatic about the game he was incredibly nervous. Being his first year on the football team he had more mistakes under his belt than victories. In fact, most of his teammates called him “the benchwarmer” for a reason.
“Are you alright? I need you pumped for tonight! Who’s going to win?” Allison said in her normal cheerful tone.
“We are…” he responded, in obvious disbelief.
“We’re going to need a little more enthusiasm than that to win the game tonight!”
Allison was the head cheerleader. At only a sophomore, that was an impressive feat. Her blonde curls bobbed as she tilted her head in an inquisitive manner. They had been best friends since the 5th grade and she could tell something was wrong. Dylan sighed as he knew the questions were coming.
“What’s wrong?” She probed, her normal fixed smile turning into a concerned expression.
“I’m just worried about the game tonight, Al. I really want to have my shining moment, you know? I want the team to believe in me.”
“Well, I believe in you,” Allison said extending her arm to rub his back reassuringly.
“I know you do… It’s just, it’s the final game. I get so nervous once I am out there playing,” Dylan responded, hanging his head down.
“You just need to focus, Dylan! I’ve seen you at practice, you are amazing! You need to stop thinking about all of those people and just focus on the game. I know it sounds silly but keep your eye on the ball. Be one with your team, don’t worry about anything else.”
Dylan just nodded his head. He knew it was good advice but he didn’t think it was good enough. After a few short exchanges he headed to the locker room. He didn’t even want to go home and face his Mom right now. He knew she would be asking all the same questions and offering the same pointless advice. Don’t you think I focus while I’m out there? It is the most important thing in my life. Of course, I am focused, he thought to himself.
In what felt like minutes his teammates started to come in one by one, finally followed by his coach. They started going over the plays until Dylan heard he was going to be on the sidelines again. Sighing he just looked away and started thinking about if he was in the right sport. Maybe I’d be better at baseball, he thought.
In spite of his mood he kept a close eye on the game. The Pirates were up by 6 and time was slipping away from the clock. Turning around he saw Allison cheering behind him and he managed a small smile. Intuitively she looked around and met his gaze with a reassuring smile and thumbs up. All of a sudden the crowd started yelling and cheering. He jolted his head around quickly and saw the quarterback in the end zone, throwing the football to the ground. He cheered his team on as well, a genuine smile plastered across his face.
“Dylan, you’re up!” he heard his coach yell from the sidelines.
“What?” Dylan responded loudly before even thinking about it.
“I said you’re up! We need that last point, we need a kicker, son!”
Dylan jumped up instinctively and put his helmet on. He wasn’t going to ask any more questions and immediately ran out onto to the field.
He looked around at the crowd that was just cheering and they were dead silent. He felt his heart racing so fast it felt like it was about to pound out of his chest. He glanced over quickly at Allison as she mouthed, “Focus”. He looked back at the ball and then his team around him. Closing his eyes he took a deep breath and said in a whisper, focus. He opened his eyes and ran toward the ball kicking it with everything he had. He looked up just in time to see it go directly through the goal posts. The crowd went wild and his team gathered around him, jumping and yelling in excitement. The buzzer sounded… he had just won them the game.
His coach came running over to the team and started congratulating them all. When he made his rounds to Dylan all he could say was, “I knew you could do it, son.”
“But why? How?” Dylan asked in disbelief.
“I’ve been keeping my eye on you during practice. I just needed to know you were ready and you were ready tonight,” the coach replied with a firm grasp on his shoulder.
From that night on Dylan gained the recognition he always wanted. He became the star kicker for the Rattlers. Looking back on that so called pointless advice he realized that all he really needed was to believe in himself and just have a little bit of focus.