First reaction and lessons: Things don’t always go as expected. Nothing is promised in this life and the world will knock you down and surprise you in ways you can’t believe. And there will always be bullshit.
Last winter at a basketball game, I had a long conversation with my position coach. He implied that I was going to be the starting middle line backer and more or less the “captain of the defense”. He then went on to ask me, “Can I trust you?” I assured him he could.
Going through the rest of the winter, I began practicing and starting at the middle linebacker spot throughout our 7-on-7 scrimmages over the weekend. Toward the end of the winter, and our final couple 7-on-7 games, my head coach revealed to me that I was going to slide over to the outside linebacker position in a starting role.
A little surprised and frustrated at first, I asked him what the consensus was for this decision. He commented by saying he thinks it would be best for the team. Without fight, I replied by telling him I was willing to do whats best for the team, even though, I would rather be in the middle position.
I then rationalized, who cares. Inside or outside linebacker, I will still be a starter on our team’s defense. Things could be a lot worse.
Fast forward, past winter and early spring workouts, near the end of my junior school year and the football team takes the field for spring practice. After a week and a couple days of brutally hot practices, we have our spring game. In this game, I was the starting outside linebacker in our teams 4-3-4 defense. When the game concluded, I was pleased with my performance, in my first audition at my new position, as was my coach.
After a long summer of workouts, football camps, and personal training, we have our last preseason camp.
To my surprise, and the rest of my teammates, our coach was utilizing our nickel package, which consists of 4 linemen, 2 linebackers, 5 defensive backs (4-2-5). In this package, my position, strong outside linebacker, is removed for another defensive back. Last year, we utilized nickel in obvious pass situations for better coverage.
After the first practice, we spent the entire time in this nickel package. This resulted in me getting no first team reps, acting as the primary backup for the starting middle linebacker. In my confusion, I asked my position coach what was going on. He informed me that we were just working on this package in this camp to get a better feel for it.
Three days later, camp was complete, we jump into our first defensive practice and we’re using this nickel package for our primary defense. Practices later, filled with frustration, I have a conversation with my coach and he insinuated that 4-3-4 wasn’t going away completely.
Weeks later, and a scrimmage later, 4-3-4 couldn’t be more out of the question. And so could me being a starter on our defense. Contrary to everything I was told previously, I find myself in a back up role on the defense. Given no chance to fight for a position, and doing nothing to show the coaches I’m not a capable player, sometimes it feels as if I barely exist anymore.
I have a role of as the primary backup linebacker backer and a 4 way special teams player. Better than nothing with the special teams, but I was starting on one of them as a 155 pound sophomore in my first ever varsity game. I did not play football till my senior year to be a special teamer. And there’s been practices where my position coach has failed to even rotate in the backup for linebacker. However, most of the time it’s just very limited repetitions compared to the starters.
Being put in this position hasn’t been easy. Sometimes I find myself at practice saying, “fuck this, fuck him, why am I here?”
When I look at the big picture, there are many different ways to handle this situation. I can say this sucks and quit. I can say this sucks, play and give less effort. Or I can do whatever it takes and work even harder then the guys who are in front of me.
I opted for the the third one. It’s wasn’t easiest, but how could I opt for anything else.
I’ve dedicated my time to varsity football for the last three years. To get to my senior year and quit…because I didn’t get my way? That is not the person I want to be remembered as. That would be pathetic. I can’t just give up, especially, considering how long the season is, and the fact that we haven’t even played our first game yet.
Beyond difficult, I find my situation peculiar. At this point, I almost find my self anticipating two players to either play very poorly or get injured. It’s hard to think that way; when it’s two of your teammates. I don’t exactly think that way because I would never wish that upon anyone, especially not one of my own teammates. However, I just keep waiting for an opportunity where I can prove to the coaches that I can and will be more dominant than those two. No way of knowing when or how that will be sucks. But what can I do it’s beyond my control.
However, what I’ve done, is try to outwork my competition. While they roam around before practice, I get the other backup linebacker and go right into our optional but highly recommended pre-practice drills. Once the starters realize we’ve started, they typically jog over, and often go through the drills with us. Then, when practice concludes, and most of the team goes into the locker room (including the starting linebackers), I go to work. Every single day after practice I begin with conditioning. I run gassers, which is running sideline to sideline there back twice. I do two of these. Then, I usually head over to the footballs sleds and work linebacker drills on those for 10-15 minutes. Then, I either do quick abdominal work or the pre practice pass drop drills or combination of both. When I come home from practice I then work on more footwork. I get my step ladder out and go through different movements for 10-20 minutes.
Right now, I’m happy with the extra effort I’ve been putting in. I’ve assured my self that I won’t get tired if anyone in front of me becomes fatigued. And I’ve worked to ensure my skills, technique, and footwork is always improving, rather than plateauing. Although I think what I’ve been doing is great, I can’t be satisfied, and I need to find ways to keep improving. I think the next step would be trying to do a little bit for school in the morning, finding more ways to get in the weight room, and watching a lot more game film.
Hopefully everything will pan out. After all we still haven’t even played our first game, there’s still a lot of season. I hope my hard work will pay off and have me ready for whenever my opportunity may be.
For anything in life you want or desire, I’ve always thought this quote is perfect…
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…” -Theodore Roosevelt