LESSONS TO LEARN: Estecada High School, OR
Disaster struck as two All-Conference players attended school social drunk. As soon as you take your eyes off your goals, even once, all that you have worked for over months and even years of training
By Roger Freeborn
Published: Summer 1999
The 1998 Estacada Ranger Football team performed beyond all expectations. This is my second season as head coach at Estacada. In the two years before I got to Estacada, the team had only won 2 games. Then, in 1997, we turned it around with a 6-3 record. This year’s team went 9-1, compiled an undefeated regular season schedule, were rated the number one scoring defense in the state, and captured it’s first undisputed Conference Championship ever. The whole town was blown away with the overall results of the season, but these results were only a testimony as to what can be accomplished when enough people care and are willing to work together to achieve a worthwhile goal.
What made the difference was when I brought the principles of BFS to Estacada and instituted a lifting program for the football team. I have systematically watched as they have gotten stronger. Hence, lesson #1 -- the BFS Program really works!
I was hired late in July of 1997. It gave us precious little time to get ready for the ‘97 season. My first night in the weightroom was frightful to say the least. It was the first time in over 20 years that I had only one athlete, a tailback, “try” to Bench 225 pounds, and he didn’t make it! I actually cringed when I thought about how much work needed to be done.
I instituted a Breakfast Club where athletes come in and lift at 6:06 AM every morning before school starts. Yes, this is early, however, it is one of those sacrifices that we must make. We do have lifting in our curriculum, but there are too many people in class to have an effective workout experience. In addition, our weightroom at present is limited in scope. To get the most out of it, you just have to lift in the morning. Your body then has the day to recover for practice in the afternoon. Also, we decided to lift right through the season. There was so much work to be done and the kids had so far to go. We just started out 3x3 and never looked back. We would have kids establish new maxes on game day in all of the lifts for the day. Rather than hinder their performance, their performances were enhanced because they felt so good about reaching a new max and they would envision how much that would help them in their game that night.
When you have untrained bodies and put them into a sound program, tremendous development and results can be achieved in a short period of time. This development led to a new attitude, increased positive self esteem, and victories out on the field. We had several players who just plain willed themselves to be not only starting Varsity football players but All Conference Players, and it all began in the weightroom. Victory followed victory as we went through the schedule. We ended the regular season 9-0, undefeated Tri-Valley Conference Champions. Everyone was excited. It was the first outright Conference Championship they had won in 50 years and only the second time they had ever been to the State Playoffs.
After the regular season, while the coaches were off scouting our next possible opponents, disaster struck in the high school gym. Two All-Conference players made the decision to attend an all-night “lock in” school social, drunk. This is lesson #2 - as soon as you take your eyes off your goals, even once, all that you have worked for over months and even years of training can be taken away in just seconds; it’s all about self discipline. These two boys were then sent home and had to be disciplined. The discipline routine here is a step by step four week process which meant they would not make the playing field again. This break of team morale coupled with the fact that I spent three days in the hospital the week prior to the first playoff game was a lot to overcome for even a regular season game, let alone a playoff game. We ended up losing the game ending our season at 9-1.
James Baldwin said, “The moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.” These players fell victim to what Pat Riley calls “The Disease of Me” and broke the covenant of the team. Dan Clark says “The major reason for failure in life is giving up what we want most for what we want at the moment.” This incident was a perfect example of that.
Our Championship Training for Success Class materials emphasize the idea that winners are “failsafe,” that there are no losses, just lessons on the highway of life. If we can learn from our losses, their impact can be greatly reduced. One of the athletes involved in the incident demonstrated great courage and wrote the following letter to the editor in the local paper. Our hope in printing it here is that our story may help athletes in the future choose the higher road:
“As I sit back and think of the moments in my life, I try to think of all the different things that I have accomplished. But no matter what I try to focus on, I seem to dwell on my mistakes. The biggest one is still the most painful. This is one that everyone is familiar with around our school and town. I made the decision to drink during the football season. Then, to top it off, I went to a school function right afterwards. Needless to say, I was caught and punished. The embarrassment and pain that I felt was harsh. I didn’t know how to face anyone, especially my former teammates. The different things that were running through my mind are unexplainable. I let myself down, but more importantly I let down my school and my town. I lost respect from a lot of people.
“How does one deal with something like this? I tried thinking of positive things to boost my morale, but I was unable to sooth the pain in my soul. I remember the night of the playoff game, standing outside the stadium in the pouring rain. I found myself wishing that I could go back in time to prevent my superior mess-up. People would walk by and whisper things. They didn’t know, but I could hear what they were saying. These things were all true, but how could I change what I already did? As the game ended and the stands finished emptying, I walked over to the gate and stared at the field for a while. Full of hurt, I walked back to my house and went to bed. I didn’t sleep at all that night, all I remember is thinking back on the season and how far the team succeeded.
“I honestly believe that I have learned from my mistake. I have no desire for any alcohol at all. There are still people who despise me because of what I had done, but I have learned to live with that. I just hope that I have showed people what it means to lose a part of themselves, and how much it hurts to wreck your own dreams. I would also like to send my deepest apologies to everyone, especially my teammates.
“The other day I was asked about the whole situation and if I learned from it. I knew the answer and so did this individual. Then, as I walked away, I was told that I was not the only one who learned from it, so did everyone else. Please think twice before you do something stupid, and never forget your dreams.
Note: This athlete went on to wrestle and won the State Championship at 190 defeating two wrestlers in the tournament that had defeated him during the season.