We were victorious in our playoff game on Saturday (Oct 26th) and the final score would lead one to believe it was an easy win, but that was not the case. Challenges crept in despite my efforts to avoid them.
Around the “Northeast Kingdom” (a colloquial name for our area of Vermont), some people refer to a phenomenon called “Spirit Week Hangover,” following the 115-year rivalry game and the Spirit Week that precedes it. Of course, the problem with such a “hangover” is it lingers through the practice week preceding the opening round of the Vermont State High School Football Playoffs.
As referenced in my blog two weeks ago, there is so much pageantry associated with the playing of “The Game,” (the 115-year rivalry between St Johnsbury and Lyndon Institute). The parade, pep rally, bonfire, all the media attention on radio, internet and in the paper all culminate in “The Game,” and once complete we find ourselves combatting the subsequent let down following all the hoopla.
Though practice and preps following “The Game,” should be just another game week, it wasn’t. It was the first game of the State playoffs… Win and advance. Lose and your season is over. Winner takes all. Nonetheless, our playoff game had an anticlimactic feel. Where was the parade? Where were all the people? Our players did not initially play with their usual enthusiasm but our opponents from Colchester certainly did. They came in with an excellent game plan and executed it well through the first quarter.
It was not until the end of the opening quarter that our players began to realize that this game is not about all the people on the outside who lined the field 3 deep for “The Game,” or those who lined the streets for the parade. It was about them… About the brotherhood cultivated over hundreds of hours of training in the weight room and on the field. About the bonds formed through shared privation of summer heat, sacrificing personal time and attention to build interdependence… It is all about winning so they can spend another week together. It is all about the team…
This week, we are on to the state semi-finals with hopes of earning yet another week together with our “brothers.” For as Shakespeare’s Henry the Fifth states just before the battle of St. Crispian’s Day, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me, Shall be my brother…” Though this week’s potential consequences are thankfully far less severe than Henry’s, nonetheless we few, we happy few Hilltoppers… look forward to daring greatly together in the arena and earning our piece of the legacy.
Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at firstname.lastname@example.org and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time!