Of Elephants and Men

Never underestimate the importance you have as a coach. You can never replace a young person's father but you can be a leader and a role model who steers them in the right direction.
You are desperately NEEDED!
Embrace mentoring!
Sam Becker shares his third testimony below.


Virtue=Strength, Lou Judd

Wade Horn, Ph.D., President of the National Fatherhood Initiative, had an intriguing article entitled “Of Elephants and Men” in a recent issue of  Fatherhood Today magazine. I found Dr. Horn’s story about young elephants to be simply fascinating, and you will too.

Some years ago, officials at the Kruger National Park and game reserve in South Africa were faced with a growing elephant problem. The population of African elephants, once  endangered, had grown larger than the park could sustain. So measures had to be taken to thin the ranks. A plan was devised to relocate some of the elephants to other African game reserves. Being enormous creatures, elephants are not easily transported.  So a special harness was created to air-lift the elephants and fly them out of the park using helicopters.

The helicopters were up to the task, but, as it turned out, the harness wasn’t. It could handle the juvenile and adult female elephants, but not the huge African bull elephants. A quick solution had to be found, so a decision was made to leave the much larger bulls at Kruger and relocate only some of the female elephants and juvenile males.

The problem was solved. The herd was thinned out, and all was well at Kruger National Park. Sometime later, however, a strange problem surfaced at South Africa’s other game reserve, Pilanesburg National Park, the younger elephants’ new home.

Rangers at Pilanesburg began finding the dead bodies of endangered white rhinoceros. At  first, poachers were suspected, but the huge rhinos had not died of gunshot wounds, and their precious horns were left intact. The rhinos appeared to be killed violently, with deep puncture wounds. Not much in the wild can kill a rhino, so rangers set up hidden cameras throughout the park.

The result was shocking. The culprits turned out to be marauding bands of aggressive juvenile male elephants, the very elephants relocated from Kruger National Park a few years earlier. The young males were caught on camera chasing down the rhinos, knocking them over, and stomping and goring them to death with their tusks. The juvenile elephants were terrorizing other animals in the park as well. Such behavior was very rare among elephants. Something had gone terribly wrong.

Some of the park rangers settled on a theory. What had been missing from the relocated herd was the presence of the large dominant bulls that remained at Kruger. In natural circumstances, the adult bulls provide modeling behaviors for younger elephants, keeping them in line.

Juvenile male elephants, Dr. Horn pointed out, experience “musth,” a state of frenzy triggered by mating season and increases in testosterone. Normally, dominant bulls manage and contain the testosterone-induced frenzy in the younger males. Left without elephant modeling, the rangers theorized, the younger elephants were missing the civilizing influence of their elders as nature and pachyderm protocol intended.

To test the theory, the rangers constructed a bigger and stronger harness, then flew in some of the older bulls left behind at Kruger. Within weeks, the bizarre and violent behavior of the juvenile elephants stopped completely. The older bulls let them know that their behaviors were not elephant-like at all. In a short time, the younger elephants were following the older and more dominant bulls around while learning how to be elephants.

When Prisons Replace Families

Once in prison, this system is very hard to leave behind. 
The New Hampshire prison system just released a dismal report two weeks ago. 
Of 1,095 prisoners released in 2007, over 500 were back in prison by 2010.  
Clearly, the loss of freedom does not compensate for the loss of fathers in managing the behavior of young men.

At least Eighty percent of the young men in prison grew up in homes without fathers. The problem seems clear. When prisons and police replace fathers, chaos reigns, and promising young lives are sacrificed.
I hope all of you enjoyed reading about my experience on my school’s retreat. Now that I have had time to relax and school has officially started I can focused on school and of course, football.
This year my high school football team, the McNicholas Rockets, have been blessed to have the mentor system started by Mr. Lou Judd. From what I have seen the mentoring by our coaches has been working wonders for the team. We all seem to getting along better and finding out what we really want to accomplish this season.
I was selected to be in Coach Paul Romulo’s mentoring group. Every Thursday we meet together and talk one on one about how life is going, how I think the team is doing, and how can I better accomplish the virtue of the week. Coach Romolo and I have a great relationship. He is one of the younger coaches and teachers I have so it’s easy to relate with him. Sometimes we will randomly start quoting movie lines together. Most importantly, he is always more concerned about you as a person than as a football player.
The virtue of the week for week 1 was SELFLESSNESS. Being a team manager in my position is a very selfless job. Some of my coaches and teammates including coach Romolo told me I was an example of this virtue for the whole team. I know what I do is selfless, but I still wanted to try and be more selfless for my team and school. I wanted to find one or two ways I could accomplish being more selfless but I didn’t know how at first…..
Leading up to this past Saturday’s game was a very emotional week. Knowing that I couldn’t be out on the field with my teammates in our school’s first ever game in our new stadium did hurt me. On top of that we had Father-Son jersey night on Thursday. We ate pizza and hung out as with our dads or whoever was representing us. At the end of the dinner each senior father/father figure went up in front of the team with his son, said a speech about how proud of them they were, (many which were very emotional resulting in a few tears shed) and handed them their jersey….
I did not plan on wearing a jersey again this year. I thought it would be too hard to bear knowing I couldn’t wear my number out on the field with pads underneath competing with my teammates. I only wore #18 last year in honor of my cousin who was in coma at the beginning of the season due to a fall at his college house. 18 was and still is his number in college. I know I am as important as any other play on the team, but to me wearing a jersey was an emotional obstacle for me.
….As the fathers were giving their speeches to my teammates I said to my dad, “You don’t have to do this, you tell me all the time how proud of me you are, and I am not wearing jersey anyway.” He just responded OK. It turns out as I expected, the coaches noticed I was the only senior not to go up in front of the team. Head Coach Mike Orlando looks at me and says “So Sam, you thought we forgot about you?” I responded, “I was hoping that was the case.”
My dad and I walked up to the microphone. Right when he started talking about everything I have overcome and how I was hero I started to cry. It was hard enough having the jerseys being handed out to all my teammates, and this being thrown on top of it was over whelming. At the conclusion of his short speech, my dad handed me one of the jerseys on the table, but I refused to put it on. I walked back to my chair with tears my eyes listening to my teammates and their fathers give me a standing ovation. Some of my teammates met me with hugs shedding the same tears I had in my eyes….
The next day we met in the locker room before school started to be surprised with our new gray, green, and gold Adidas Tech-Fit jerseys which we spent all off season fundraising for. I walked in to return the jersey I was given the night before, while the rest of the team was going to wear theirs to school like we do every Friday. Coach Romolo told me to put on my jersey like the rest of the guys, I respectfully declined. After receiving a weird look from him, I told him we would talk about it later. So as my teammates walked out to school in our old green jerseys I was in my regular school uniform. I was still on the fence about whether I should wear one for the game Saturday or not. Throughout the day my teammates asked me why didn’t have a jersey on and if I would wear a new one for the game. I still had no idea. Before our team mass after school I explained to Coach Romolo why didn’t wear a jersey that day and how difficult it was for me during jersey night. He completely understood and told me it was my decision, but that I deserved to wear one just as much as the rest of the team.
After thinking about it that day at practice I found out how to better achieve the virtue of the week: SELFNESS. I decided to wear a jersey at the game this past Saturday not only for my coaches and teammates who wanted me to, but for my father. I know how much it means to him that I wear jersey. He was a big football star back in high school breaking all of his school rushing records. He asked me many times during the off-season what number I would wear this year. I just told him I wasn’t planning on wearing one. But as I thought about it being selflessness is also about allowing others to enjoy your accomplishments and stepping outside of your comfort zone for them.
This week the team was told repeatedly to find someone to play for. In addition to play all of the past players who never got to play at our new stadium. To play for the guys who wore your jersey years ago. As was in the equipment room picking out my jersey I decided to wear #32. It was wore by Austin Ernst’s (who I referred to in my last article) older brother Eric, 2 years ago. I wanted to wear it so Eric, my ex-teammate, would be represented. Another way I tried to improve my selflessness.
Throughout practice and before the game on Saturday some of my senior teammates told me that they were playing for me. They expressed  how bad they wanted me out there with them. I didn’t find out until after the game that many of them wrote my initials on there cleats so that in some way I was on field with them. This gesture meant the world to me. It was the ultimate act of selflessness. I felt honored.
Saturday ended up being a perfect day for the McNicholas community. Austin, as our quarterback, lead the team down the field for a touchdown caught by junior Matt Curran with 43 seconds left in the game. Right after the score Austinran over to me and said that was for me, that I was on his mind every play of the drive. The game was sealed by sack from senior Todd Gula and a few nice defensive plays by our secondary.
I believe we were a great example I selfless team. We not only played for each other, but for our school, alumni, and most importantly God. As we take on New Richmond high school next week I know we will approach this game with the same selflessness we showed this week.
I encourage all of you to do something selfless for someone else each day. You don’t even have to know them. Give back to those who have given everything for you whether it is a coach, parent, or friend. Write to you soon
God Bless,
Sam Becker