A month or so ago, a player who played for Griff and I over the last couple of summers — as well as with Griff during the school season of 2010 — walked away from the game during the fall of his first season of college. His reasons were not unusual by any means. These included not loving the game anymore, not liking his teammates, not liking his environment, and not liking his coaches. Being of considerable intelligence, the player took the obvious logical steps and arrived at the conclusion that he never really loved the game but rather his company within his personal experiences relative to the game, be it on or off the field. Of course I encouraged him to give his decision a little time and a little reflection so that he is confident in it when he looks back at his life. I urged him to gaze beyond talent and performance and rather toward more rudimentary factors such as basic emotions like love, joy, hate, pain, etc. In the last couple of weeks he has developed a new desire to return to the field, and I think his reasoning is worth discussing.
When the player first mentioned to me that he was planning on hanging them up, it took me by surprise. The thought of a young man leaving the game, and not vice versa, is so inconceivable to me that it is difficult to imagine. I speculate that the rest of writers here at The Golden Sombrero feel similarly. Our love for the game hopefully shows in what we write on this site, and so I urged the player to reconsider and to reflect on all of the good the game has brought him. The confusing component of this exchange for me was how the player’s current situation had obscured his memory of his own experiences on the field. This dude is awesome and does something great every game, and did the entire time he played for Griff and I; he had a lot of great memories to conjure up. That wasn’t happening at all, though. It was very discouraging and left me quite upset, not at the player but rather at the coach/team who had left this player so willing to walk away.
Time spent away from loved ones is unique in reminding us of what it is we miss and love so much. Just ask Brettsta what being robbed of his ski season was like. Better yet, ask Griff what losing the game to a series of injuries was like, and what it’s like now when he reflects on his career. Hell, ask anyone who spends extended periods away from wives or girlfriends, brothers, parents, friends. Even if the last time we saw these people we were fighting or disagreeing about something, the good is typically what we recall and is what drives us to return to each other. I think this player felt these same emotions about the game during his time off. It reminded him of the game’s goodness, and it clarified that his departure was not he quitting the game but rather he quitting his situation within it.
He has no intention of returning to the team he left. He would transfer first, alongside a friend and teammate to a JUCO, which would make him draft eligible a couple of years earlier. I get the feeling that the draft had nearly no effect on his decision, and for that I am thankful because I think extrinsic rewards like money, security, awards, and rewards cheapen the game on the field and rob it of its heart to an extent. Nevertheless, these all have been known to drive and motivate a certain brand of player, so it is deserving of some mention. As it is, I am thoroughly convinced that this particular player is returning to the game because he learned in his time off how much better it made his life and how much he missed it, the joy and the pain.
I’m really excited for him, and he will likely be joining at least one former teammate from his club teams back home regardless of where he eventually decides to go. To my knowledge, he has already been offered at least two scholarship opportunities. I think that the thought of returning to a team with old friends is quite alluring for him, and for that I am grateful. Maybe the finest things that the game brings us are our brothers we earn in it. These guys are going to have a great time this spring, and I am really excited for the season to start.