Courage is fickle. It may be with you on a daily basis, but the handful of times when you need it the most it can be very hard to find. Courage is like athletic ability in a way. If you don't nurture it you can lose it. The question about allowing U.S. Grant to go independent in football is a question about courage.
Personally I feel like a great deal of my inner courage was instilled in me through my upbringing. Other coaches and athletes I have spoken with have said the same thing. But what if you had no true “upbringing?” How does a kid find and nurture his courage in a foster home, or while he's living at a friend's house because his dad's in jail? How is courage cultivated with no positive role models and no structure?
The outsider's perspective is for Grant to “get better”. To them, I would like to extend an invitation to spend a few days with us and see what life is like. We have shorter practices, significantly less access to strength and conditioning programs, and operate on a budget that is a fraction of the other teams in our district. It would serve our kids and our community to create an environment of competitive fairness that will encourage students at Grant to run towards after school athletics instead of running away from it. As coaches, we can't help kids who aren't on the team.
We have redefined success at Grant. We “win” when we keep a kid from dropping out and see him graduate. We “win” when one of our student athletes goes to college. We “win” when we are able to send weekend backpacks full of food home so our players and their brothers and sisters can eat. It's not about scoreboard success, it's about teaching a kid to be a man so he can break the cycle of poverty.
It takes a great deal of courage for a kid to play football at U.S. Grant knowing he will spend the majority of the season on the wrong side of a 60-point beatdown. The 19 players who stuck with the program in 2011 showed a great deal of courage in doing so, as did the 33 who finished this year. I would like to call on the OSSAA to reciprocate that courage and do the right thing for these kids, regardless of the popularity of the decision. I would like to see the OSSAA have the latitude to make special concessions in situations of special circumstance. Leaving Grant in Class 6A benefits no one. Allowing us to play football as an independent benefits our players, their families, our school, and our community. It's time to do the right thing.