Urged by slivers of morning light, Coach Taylor slipped out of bed, careful not to disturb Brook. He crept out the back door and headed for the birch grove. He felt a moment’s peace as sunshine warmed his face. Then inner turmoil drove his arms into the air as he cried out, “If you don’t want me to do this anymore, tell me! If you do, then help me!”
That afternoon, Coach Taylor reflected on his career leading up to his 6th year. For the first 2 his focus was on building the team, but each disappointing season brought more pressure and criticism. Now, disaster. Darin transferred to York, leaving his team unanchored. Lost in thought, he didn’t hear the knock and looked up to see Mr. Bridges. “Coach Taylor, the Lord is not finished with you yet. You still have an open door here. I felt compelled to come tell you that.”
Coach followed him into the hall and admitted his struggles. Mr. Bridges said, “Grant, I know of two farmers, desperate for rain and praying for it. One prepared his fields, the other didn’t. Which one do you think was ready for rain when it came?”
That evening, Grant sat down in the den with a notepad and pen, his Bible beside him. He read, thought, wrote. When Brook read what he’d written, she smiled, “I think this applies to all of life, not just football.”
Next afternoon, Coach walked into the locker room and held up a bill, “Five dollars if you can tell me who won the state championship five years ago?” One guess, then another. “Don’t guess, either you know it or you don’t. Who won two years ago?” He had their attention as he laid out his new game plan. So far so good, Grant thought, contemplating the challenges ahead.
They went out for practice, wilting even in shorts and tshirts. Coach beckoned, and the husky quarterback and lean running back approached. “Let’s see you do the Death Crawl”. Groans, eye rolls, a stirring among the other players. Man, that would be deadly in this heat!
Bud took position, down on all fours; his teammate lay on Bud’s back, grabbed onto his sleeves, and curled up.
“I want your best, Bud.” Readying himself, he said, “What, you want me to go to the 50?” Coach tied a bandana around Bud’s forehead. “I want your best. I don’t want you quitting when you think you’ve had enough.”
Like the tortoise the pair resembled, their progress was slow but steady. Bud resisted the seductive appeal to drop his knees. He pushed on, one ten-inch handspan after another. A few more. He stopped.
“Come on, keep going, don’t quit, don’t quit!” Coach yelled.
“I’m not, just resting. It hurts!”
“I know it hurts, but you negotiate with your body for the strength you need. I want your best, your very best.”
They continued, unaware that the kicker had risen to watch them. One by one, the others came to their feet, mesmerized by their teammates’ agonizing progress.
Grant’s face was inches from Bud’s, “Don’t quit on me, Bud. Gimme 20 more!” Shaking but crawling. “Come on, 10 more, just 10!” Whitehot chills shot through Bud’s veins. “Five more, then you can stop, just 5 more.”
Was it five, Bud wondered, as he collapsed. Coach removed the blindfold. “Look up, Bud. You’re in the end zone!” He managed a slight lift of his sweat-soaked head. Sure enough.
“You just carried a 145 pound man on your back across this field. Don’t tell me you can’t give me more than I’ve been seeing. You’re a leader, Bud, these men look up to you. If you quit, so will they. I need you to give me your best. Will you do that?”
Nodding once, the exhausted boy whispered a fierce, “Yes.”
“Coach?” the running back spoke softly.
“What is it Jeremy?”
“I weigh 160.”
The guys on the field were talking and punching each other playfully. “A’right,” said the assistant coach, “Who’s next?”
NOTE: This story is based on scenes from the movie “Facing the Giants” and this was acknowledged in my submission to the writing contest. The names were changed to avoid confusion and to meet the size limitations of the contest.