By Laura Glover Pruitt, Sports Columnist
It’s 4:30 a.m. and his alarm clock starts blaring from the right side of the bed. It’s Friday; game day. A full week of preparation is all riding on the game tonight. He gets up to shower with so much on his mind.
The ballgame. His job. His family. His team. So much depends on what he does tonight and how well he does it. But he’s ready. He’s ready to face this game day with full force and a positive attitude. There’s no time for negative thoughts, he can’t afford any negative thoughts!
He gets dressed and heads downstairs for breakfast. No one else is awake yet, the sun isn’t even up yet. It’s too early for most everyone else, but he’s got a schedule to keep and no time for downtime in between.
He gets in his truck and hits the road. Not many cars to pass on the way to work, most everyone is still in their beds or catching the morning news in their recliner before they start their day. But not him; He’s got too much to do.
He pulls in at work and gets his day started. Other people slowly start pulling into the parking lot and greet him with the tip of a cap. They know today is Friday. They know today is Game Day. They know he has a lot on his mind. They know he has worked hard all week long and they want to see him succeed tonight, too.
Lunchtime arrives, but no time for lunch. He has way too much to do before 3:30 when he meets with his team. He doesn’t have an entire hour to sit at a table and converse with his co-workers like a “normal” employee. After all, it is Game Day.
It’s now 3:00 p.m. His alarm sounds on his phone. It’s almost time to meet with his team so he needs to get going. He wraps up the loose ends with what he’s doing and heads to the field house. He walks into the weight room and is greeted by his team. They’ve been waiting for him and someone has already texted saying “are you close?”
He’s the Quarterback turned wideout thanks to an injury. And the kick-off returner. And defensive back. He never leaves the field. He’s 16. He is tired. He is worn. He is stressed. He is nervous. He is thinking of all the things he needs to do tonight. Catch the ball. Keep the ball. Run the ball. Drop the shoulder and plow through. Stay up. Get the touchdown. Carry your team through for a win.
The fans in the stands have no idea what he’s done today. They have no idea he was up at 4:30 getting ready for a full day’s work while they were all sleeping. Or that he took a short nap in his truck in the parking lot of the field house because he’s exhausted. He’s not sure if he’s exhausted from his job, from football, or from virtual school, but he’s exhausted. But as he makes his first mistake on the field he hears the fans yelling. Some are screaming his name telling him to “Wake Up!” “Watch the ball!” “Pay attention!” Because he hasn’t had anything else to focus on, why can’t he do that right?
One of our student-athletes is living this exact scenario. He goes to work, football practice, back to work for maintenance, home for virtual school. Then he does it all over again the next day, and the next, and the next. And on Friday nights, we scream at him from the top of the bleachers like he doesn’t already have enough on his mind. Football is just a game. The athletes you are watching are also living life. Many of them are stressed enough without you yelling at them when they make a mistake.
Truth be told, a lot of us could learn a lesson from him; a lesson of dedication, respect, and effort. He may not know it but he has an entire locker room of teammates that see him walk through that door in dirty work clothes and change into practice clothes and they all know where he’s been. The teenage boys around him respect him. He deserves at least that much from his fans.
Respect the athlete. You have no idea where they’ve been, where they’re headed or the stress they’re taking with them. Be a fan. Be supportive. Give some Grace.