“Success is not a goal. It’s a byproduct.” This quote from Coach Taylor in the movie Friday Night Lights epitomizes the philosophy of the Rappahannock Storm. Some coaches teach the easy route to success and victory. The Storm teaches young men to be fundamentally sound, disciplined, accountable, and team oriented. It may cost the players a win or two along the way, but it will reward them with a more sustainable, long term success that will serve them well on the field and off of it. Success is a byproduct of forming successful habits. Successful habits are the principle ingredient of character dependability, and integrity.
The Rappahannock Storm Youth Football team put that approach to the test when they checked in at the Central Fauquier Sports Complex at 7:45 p.m. on Friday, November 27 to play in the Turkey Bowl Classic. Their first game was against the Commonwealth Warriors on Saturday afternoon. The Warriors are a nationally ranked team and would provide them with a litmus to gauge where the players were competitively. The Storm couldn’t move the ball with any consistency and went down by sixteen points by halftime. However, that was still encouraging for the coaching staff. This group of 7, 8, 9, and 10 year olds had only been formed three weeks prior to compete in another tournament. They had received helmets and shoulder pads just one week prior, yet there they were down two touchdowns to a group of 10 year old kids who had been playing together since the spring. This same Warriors team would be on a plane to Florida the following week to play in the National Championships.
After all the halftime speeches and adjustments, Rappahannock went out and battled hard. They gave up another touchdown, but Demetrius Stewart blocked the extra point. The effort was much better and the players competed admirably. The final score was 22-0 in favor of the Warriors, but the Storm captured the hearts of all the spectators. No one knew who they were at check-in. But now they had arrived and everyone present knew that a storm was brewing. All they need now is a full season under their belts. With more participation from local talent in the Northern Neck, this team will be one to be reckoned with.
The Storm coaches and players headed back to the hotel wounded, but determined. Instead of X’s and O’s, they decided to participate in an interactive discussion. Coaches, players, and parents facilitated a dynamic group exercise to accentuate the positive experiences from the day. They reinforced individual accountability, uplifting teammates. The coaching staff conveyed to parents their desire to develop these young men athletically, emotionally, socially, and scholastically.
Sunday saw a team more mentally prepared and exhibiting better morale and effort. An aggressive defense forced fumbles and made tackles for losses in a highly contested first half against the Virginia Jaguars. Unfortunately, the Jaguars put their 200 plus pound lineman in the backfield. He overpowered the smaller Storm players in route to 3 touchdowns. The Storm lost the game, but gained the respect and admiration of the parents and spectators in attendance. They earned the confidence and fulfillment that comes with knowing you left it all out on the field. One play later in the game epitomized the entire experience. A late touchdown run down the sideline was made possible by a big block downfield by the smallest player on the team. Isaiah Gibson ran across the field with a block to spring Ti’Jai Brooks down the sideline and into the end zone. As the kids did the “Griddy Dance” in the end zone, another quote from Friday Night Lights comes to mind: “Every man at some point in his life is going to lose a battle. He’s gonna fight, and he’s gonna lose. But what makes him a man is that in the midst of the battle he does not lose himself.” These kids found themselves in the midst of adversity. They kept fighting, despite the obvious outcome. The Northern Neck should be proud.
Submitted by James Avery Fauntleroy