Trial By Fire
“Another five minutes, keep pushing.”
The words were barely audible through the sweat and concentration of running the killers, but I knew their meaning. It was clear enough. We were not done running, but were instead going longer, but in the back of our minds’ we knew this was coming anyway. It was just a formality that coach still had to say those reviled words.
“All the way through, push to the end, last minute.” They were welcome words, but for some reason that one minute seemed to take ten. But there was no stopping; you always pushed to the end. Coach always said that he didn’t force us to run those laps and killers, that it was our own choice. But, strangely no one ever challenged that choice.
Everyday of soccer practice was the same. Run a lap around the field; shoot into the net, stretch. And then began the fun part, the running. It varied each day, depending on coach’s mood, but it was always enough to make us have to fight through it. Some days were worse than others, I was wheezing and coughing after the particularly bad ones, but those were far and few between. Despite our inabilities to see it, there was a purpose behind this torture.
“Whether you like it or not, I’m going to whip you into good players, you might not like my techniques, but they work. In my playing days, running was my most hated practice, but it helped develop me into a far better athlete. As the season progresses, you’ll see the effects more clearly.”
In the end, all he wanted was to make us better players, and be able to rely upon ourselves when it mattered most. Only through hard work and determination were we ever going to be better players than we were. We may not have liked it, but he was indeed right. At the beginning of the season, the effects of just a little running were obvious: we were out of shape. But as the season rolled on, our runs got longer, but we didn’t get as tired. Those hours of constant running and cutting and jogging were paying off and giving us the conditioning to endure much more than an average person could. We could run for 45 minutes straight and feel little to no effects. And of course we could go entire 80 minute games without stopping. So it must have helped, though it didn’t really feel like it.
“When you push and try like a team, you will improve and succeed as a team.”
We eventually came to expect the most out of everyone, even during running. If anyone slacked off, the rest of us were instantly on them. None of us would let anyone fail. Through coach’s efforts and training, he had molded us into a team. And so it was only fitting that we got our first win of the season in the second of last game, and we senior’s last home game. It was the perfect way to end a season and culminate those hours of training.
It was a trial by fire well worth it.