Inside a Young Man's Heart

Sam Becker of Cincinnati McNicholas High School has been providing some awesome feedback of what it is like on the "inside of a young man's heart" as he and his team go through a season with SportsLeader.

I recommend sharing this with all your athletes.

Virtue = Strength,

Lou Judd


I apologize for not submitting an article in a few weeks. The college search, school work, and football absorb most of my time during the week and weekend. I hope you all understand
As many of you know my football team, the McNicholas Rockets, have been involved in the mentoring program since the beginning of our season. I firmly believe it has helped us become a better team on and off the field. The coaches do a great job of connecting with us and teaching us how to become better men. I find this vitally important to our season as we get into to conference play and closer to the state playoffs.
In every season adversity is going to strike, it doesn’t matter if you are 0-10 or 15-0. It be could an injury to key player, a devastating momentous swing of points due to turnovers, or a the ever-present weather factor.
I have come to the conclusion that a team’s season is defined by how they respond to the adversity in front of them. They have 2 choices.
1. The easy choice: to roll over and quit.
2. the hard choice: to get back up, and keep fighting on.
For me there is only one choice in this matter, and that is the second. Week 3 against our neighborhood rival, Turpin, it’s safe to say we faced adversity. We had 4 turnovers that could’ve been avoided, a lightning delay causing us to play the 2nd half on Saturday, and our starting right guard went down with a knee injury late in the 4th quarter. We lost 35-7 to a very good football team, who we believe we should’ve beat.
The most important thing a coach can teach a player/man is how to respond to adversity on and off the field
This week our coaches preached about responding to adversity. They refused to let down their end of the bargain in having a successful season. The first thing one of our assistant coaches, Coach Mulvey said after the game was “What are you going to do now?” I think we answered that question justly this week. We went on the road after a 2 hour bus ride up Dayton Carroll High School and beat them 42-14 on their patchy grass field, something we weren’t accustom to. We proved that this year’s team is different from last years 2-8 squad.  In our first conference game we could’ve been shell shocked when the Carroll QB threw Hail Mary TD at the end of the first half. We responded by out scoring Carroll 28-7 in the second half. This was a total team win from the starters, coaches, and scout team that all worked their butts off to redeem our poor performance the pervious week
This carried over into the next week when we were given the Virtue of the Week: RELENTLESSNESS. Being relentless is all about fighting back, whether you are winning 40-0 or down 0-40, are you going to keep fighting? No matter what kind of adversity strikes are you going to back up and face your opponent and hit them harder the next play? Its about having a willingness to out work, out hustle, and mentally out tough your opponent. Really being relentless is having HEART and DESIRE to defeat any obstacle in your way no matter what the circumstance.

Right away adversity struck us. Kevin McHale (Our captain, All-City middle linebacker, Defensive MVP last year along with being our returning leading tackler and rusher) suffered a sprained MCL late against Carroll and despite his best efforts was forced to sit out the next weeks game. This forced another captain, center Jack Eheman to play both ways (Center and Middle Linebacker). Wide out Michael Byrne was also out after re-injuring his back, Mike is a reliable receiver so it was a big blow not have him as well. We faced a worthy opponent to say the least. The Fenwick Falcons. Fenwick is great program who usually goes 7-3 or 8-2 every year. This year they came to week 5 being 3-1 like us and having a dynamic offense led by a trio of D1 prospects on their offense. They were ranked 6th in the city and us 7th. Not mention they have beaten us the past few years. Regardless, I had no doubt that we were the better team and I wanted to make sure my teammates knew it as well…..
McNicholas football has been claimed to be mediocre over the past decade or so. Sure we have had successful seasons back in the early parts of the last 10 years and in 2010 when we went to the state final 4, but overall the culture at McNick has not been up to the standards of the seniors and the coaches on the team this year….we knew beating Fenwick would start to change the culture in the community of McNicholas.
A voiced my growing frustration to my mentor Coach Paul Romolo the Friday before the game. I told him how I refused to have this season turnout like the last. I would do anything to help the team, although I can’t play. I came back not only to be with my senior class in our last year, but to be the first team in McNicholas football history to win a State Championship. Coach Romolo and I came to the conclusion that I should give me Senior Talk to the players and coaches that night as way of possibly motivating, inspiring, and focusing the team. With Coach Orlando’s “OK”, I gave my talk that night. After the 2 other seniors gave their Senior Talks about how great their 4 years have been and how much fun they were having this year, I walked up surprising the team with a much different message…..
First I thanked my coaches and seniors for accepting me and begging me to come back this year. I spoke about how I almost didn’t come back. The emotional stress last years  2-8 season put on me was unbearable. I couldn’t stand watching us seemly give up last year. I refused to be apart of the same situation. My parents suggested that I don’t go back on the team with my friends. They saw how much pain I was in. But I felt called back, by some force greater than me. My friends and team needed me and I couldn’t imagine being the in stands on Friday nights and Saturday afternoon. I expressed to the team that I do not enjoy what I do in proportion to playing. I told them how badly I would want to practice during a summer 2-A-Day in 105 degree heat for six hours. I would give anything to play. I went on to talk about how it kills me to watch them warm up on a game day while I stand on sidelines; it is the worst feeling in the world. I wanted them to understand the privilege of playing high school sports, how it can taken away in a blink of an eye, and how they need to make the most of their oppurunity.. one that some people would give anything for.
Then I shifted my talk to the program as a whole. I spoke about the necessary change of culture needed at our school and on the team. I made clear that I do not understand why people don’t practice hard, fake injuries, or complain about the difficulty of practice. That is not who I am nor is it who I ever will be. I refuse to be apart of a program that does not go into each game expecting to win. I told them I would physically rip the jersey off their pads if they step inside the white lines tomorrow thinking they can’t beat Fenwick. They shouldn’t care about the name on the other team’s jersey, or how good Ricky Davis is (Fenwick’s QB) all they should think about is the man on left and right of them and the McNicholas M that they wear on their helmets and the name on the front of their jersey (Something Coach Simon always instills in us every week.) My only goal is to win a State Championship, and if they don’t to then don’t be on the team… I told them just go out their and win, win for your teammates who can’t play this week, win for the school, and win for yourselves.
I received I hand from teammates and was commended by Coach Orlando after I spoke. Many members of the team told me how pumped they were and how it really hit them in heart. They said they were playing for me tomorrow.  All I hoped for was that I could some how inspire the team to play harder and confident. It’s safe to say it worked out….
We won by 1 point in overtime 45-44. Our safety, Thomas Vogele swatted down a pass on a 2 point conversion try that would have won Fenwick the  game. We responded to the adversity that Fenwick gave us. We answered them and they answered us score for score. And when our backs were up against the wall we stepped up and won the game. Despite being down late in the game we were relentless, my teammates refused to lose that game. They knew the importance of it to the community as a whole and to the future of program. (Fenwick was also the classiest GCL we have ever played against, if you know any member of their team let them know)
I guess the message I am trying to send this week is that on the rode to success there are NO EXCUSES.  Though the Ups and Downs in life you must work until you can’t work anymore. You have to be “All In” (As Coach O always says) when striving for success. Don’t let anything stop you. Remember who you are, where you came from, where you are, and how you got there. Take each piece of adversity that enters your life as an opportunity to become a better person. With God all things are possible; you just have to meet him halfway.
Thank you and God Bless,
Sam Becker
P.S. I am open to any feedback and questions you have about me, my team and my journey