Letter: An open letter to Red Wing football players
To the editor:
The 2016 football season has given each one of you a dramatic set of circumstances surrounding a sport that most of you have played since you were young boys. The challenges and adversity that you have faced over the last several months have tested the true character of your hearts, the fight to find your inner-champions, the pride that represents your uniform, and your will to continue fighting for your team, family, school and community.
The game of football allows you to prepare for defending an offense and scheming against a defense that you'll face nine different times on a Friday night throughout your season. You have had the opportunity to review film, work out in the weight room, practice with your unit(s) and mentally prepare for these nine battles on the gridiron we call a football field.
No player has had the opportunity to prepare for the "opponent" you would encounter this year. Player assignment and position controversy, unrest in your locker room, community member accusations, news media coverage, and the loss of member(s) of your coaching staff. Combined with this set of individual disappointments, you have also had to 'stomach' season-ending injuries, the loss of teammates and a winless season.
The victory that lies underneath your football record is far more important than the public perception of your 2016 season, and each of you should be postured with your shoulders rolled back, and your heads held high.
You see, what you accomplished is far greater than what any person may deal with in an entire lifetime. Watching you at every practice, in the weight room, during film sessions, and on the game field was a true testament of who you are, as men. You fought with every fiber of your being(s), you picked up the man next to you, you encouraged one another, and you left everything on the field when the final whistle blew. You stood up to adversity, looked your opponent in the eye, and made a commitment to do absolutely everything you could to make sure you had a chance to win every game you played. Not one of you would be lying if you stood in front of your football family and testified that you gave it your "100".
A wise man, who was a mentor of mine and a phenomenal football coach, once told me that I was in for a challenge if I wanted to coach high school football. He showed me that "building football players" was the description on paper, but that the real success of any coach would be determined by how successful he was in building character in young men. You made that job incredibly easy. The character that you each have, as men, can never be held in question.
After being involved with football for 28 years, as both a player and a coach, I can honestly say without conviction, that you were the greatest group of young men I have ever been involved with in a football environment. You have demonstrated relentless courage far greater than any single man or team I have encountered. You have persevered when it seemed like you were destined for certain failure. You have believed when it seemed like nobody else did, and you have won the real battle when it seemed that everyone was focused on the meaningless scores at the end of a football game.
To the graduating seniors: Some of you will seek a post-secondary education, and some of you will go directly into the workforce. Some of you may go into the military, and some of you may find a trade. Some of you will help with your family businesses, and some of you will be undecided on your path moving forward. But all of you will do it successfully. All of you have what it takes to be successful at accomplishing anything and everything you set your minds to, and all of you have made an impact that you can be proud of for the rest of your lives.
To the returning players: Some of you have been discouraged, and some of you have remained optimistic. Some of you have suffered injury, and some of you have developed in your positions. Some of you have realized great gains, and some of you are right on the verge, but all of you have the formula to succeed, and I'm certain that there is nothing but greatness ahead of you.
To all of you: Stay focused on what matters. Don't allow yourselves to succumb to challenge or adversity, or crumble under pressure, ever again in your lives. You have proven that you are greater, stronger and bigger than any obstacle that may come your way, and all of you know what it really means to be a Winger football player.
Stew Peters was the Red Wing High School varsity defensive back coach and junior varsity head coach during the 2016 season.