Cheerleader tryouts were already happening on the other side of school and Andrew’s girlfriend would be judging the new girls for the squad. Having played Track & Field for two years, he thought that he might have the inside track on the prestigious football team. Nearly all of his friends at Troy High School had attended “games” at neighboring schools, which did not seem to include “meets.”
Now in his junior year, Andrew Wesson was already a year behind the varsity players, and he knew that his highschool sweetheart could be longing for something more–or someone more. Standing outside with the nearly 100 other tryouts, he knew, at least, that he would be the fastest running back. If not, he may at least have the best endurance.
“Come on, you guys have to line up in two lines,” called out one of the older girls with all of the enthusiasm of some species of fungus growing on the dewy grass. The combination of heat and humidity were taking their toll on the other tryouts, he realized. They were slow at getting into groups, dragging their feet.
“This is not a good sign of things to come!” yelled the coach, Mr. Brent, who taught English only as a kind of afterthought. Coaching was clearly his passion, but there was a slight edge to his tone, even a bit of abusiveness that rubbed Andrew the wrong way. “Wesson, take a knee!” The former track star did so instantly.
Pacing back and forth, the old man, close to retirement, was angry that he’d never won a state championship for their division, while the girls teams had won them several times. Looking around, Andrew could see why. There was no motivation in the hearts of these boys, and the coach micromanaged every detail of practice, leaving no room for creativity or learning by his “staff,” which included one special ed instructor and two senior girls more focused on what college their friends were applying for than the success of a high school football team.
“Nonayou kids is worth a damn. Nonayou!” The coach continued pacing, huffing. “I only asked for you to keep up today! If you can’t keep up during tryouts, how the hell do you expect to make it to state?” His eyes glazed over with cynicism, followed by contempt, “Every one of you, go run around the track. The slowest ones are all cut!”
Terrified and first on the track, Andrew raced at his best speed, staying ahead of the group. He didn’t know how many would be sent home–they’d have to keep some. If he maintained his lead, he would at least stay in the running for now. Giving it everything, he put everything he had into this run, sparing nothing. After three laps, he was nearly on the heels of the other runners, ready to lap them, sure now that he would make the team–or at least survive this test. Drawing from a second wind, he sprinted until he was right up on a group of slow runners, ready to leave them behind.
In an instant, he heard the coach’s whistle blow hard, a shrill noise that seemed to drone on forever. How many of these guys would be sent home? The slow pack included four or five–he hadn’t counted. As the group walked up to the young woman “staffer” holding a clipboard, she addressed Andrew and the young men in the slow group.
“You guys are all cut for this year. Thanks for coming out, but we don’t really need you. See you guys next year.”