You don't know our son. The season's over, our last game done...and the countless hours you've spent with your team have provided a winning season.
For us though, it's more than that.
You see, what you don't know, is just how much he never wanted to play. I'm sure you saw the signs, even from day one, but the reason why might surprise you.
When he was nine, he entered the world of recreational football. We found what we thought was a great program, but based on weight and size, Christian was placed on an older team. A team that had been together for a few years and had a coach that wanted one thing...to win.
The foundation of our son's concept of sports - primarily football - was rooted in this man's theories and behavior towards his players and team. The coach didn't want younger kids and he especially didn't want inexperience, so he targeted the weak, grabbing their face masks, screaming how they would never win a game with them on board. He would line the older players up against the younger, yelling for them to hit the boys harder in hopes they would eventually quit.
By the end of the first week, Christian was covered in bruises. His shoulders, arms, thighs. He began to shut down in the car each night on the way to practice and fight tears on the way home. It fundamentally shaped the way he felt about the game.
Our boys have never played for that team again and between then and now, Christian's had much better experiences with football with some exceptional coaches to help repair the past.
But then came you.
You were our introduction to a sports program at our school and I'll never forget one of the first things we heard you say. You began with how this was middle school and you were here to teach the fundamentals of the game, as opposed to the fundamental need to win...but win you did.
Game after game, following each victory, the approach you took with your players and your team began to change him. The worry in our son began to fade and a trust started to form. My husband and I became wide eyed as he volitionally prepared his uniform the night before his games and packed his practice clothes each week without complaint.
We knew just how different things were around mid-season when we had something which would've prevented him from going to practice, when Christian bargained, stating he could work it out, but didn't want to miss.
He enjoyed football for the first time. The environment you created. The team you built and the genuine compassion for your players was felt, both by our son and by us.
The positive memories you've created will stay with him forever and as a parent, that's one of the greatest gifts on earth.
So, as I said...you don't know our son. You don't know how he stands a little taller, smiles a little bigger and feels so much prouder to be a part of his school, his team, your team, and you'll never know how much that means to us.
Thank you more than words, Coach. He'll carry this year and you with him throughout his life.