We're Not Done Yet
About 3-4 years ago, the idea of 11-man football began to gain traction in conversations around TCA. Discussions began in earnest, and we began preparing for what seemed like a natural move, including a change to TAPPS, a larger, more competitive athletic league. From all perspectives, it felt right and just made sense.
In spring 2015, we announced the impending move, and what had been talk became “real.” Suddenly there was no shortage of voices ready to remind TCA leaders of our weaknesses and limitations, both real and perceived. We were told we didn’t have enough players for an 11-man program, and the ones we had weren’t skilled or strong enough. We were told we couldn’t assemble the coaching staff needed for 11-man and were reminded that our practice space wasn’t what it needed to be (they had a point there--this is still a need!). We were even told that our other sports would suffer in a move to TAPPS. In short, we were making a big mistake!
Eighteen months later, as I type, our varsity football team not only undefeated in district, but ranked 5th in the most recent TAPPS coaches poll. Detractors said the junior high football team wouldn’t even have enough numbers to field a six-man team. In their first 11-man season, they have a winning record along with our JH volleyball team. Varsity boys' cross country is ranked 7th among all TAPPS 3A schools. The naysayers reluctantly admitted that varsity volleyball might be good enough to make the playoffs, but who would have guessed that the Lady Eagles would be undefeated in district and ranked second in state in TAPPS 3A? What a great start we’ve had in this new chapter of TCA athletics!
We all enjoy these kind of “I told you so!” moments, and our coaches and athletes deserve much credit for these achievements on the court and field. But that’s not the only reason I share all this. Allow me to use all of this as prelude for what I believe are three very important related points.
Sports are fun, especially when you win! More importantly, though, athletics can teach lessons that are best learned in the grind of practice and the crucible of competition. We see their value as another type of classroom or laboratory where real life lessons are learned in victory and defeat.
Athletics are extra-curricular and only one part of our school’s mission to develop “excellence in education, character and servant leadership.” As I look across the landscape here at TCA, I see academics that are stronger than ever, a growing creative arts program, and opportunities for servant leadership like never before. The number of National Merit honorees, a new drumline, I-Term opportunities, more robust Core Group and Bible Buddy programs, and a fall play written by our students and staff all attest to these areas of growth.
Finally, winning is fun, but we need to remember that success has its own dangers. As I look back on all our critics warned us about, one last item catches my eye: “You’ll be compared to ______ and ______ for football” (area football powerhouses). The writer’s intent was to warn us that we’d end up looking second-rate compared to these programs, but today I see that warning through a different light. With TCA’s football, volleyball, and cross country teams all state ranked (the only TAPPS school with this distinction), we must take care not to become too similar to those programs! Not only should we be different, we must proudly embrace our differences. We bear the name of Christ, and it is our responsibility to showcase a better way of doing school, sports, and arts. Others must see this.
Furthermore, we may be winning now, but we won’t always come out on top. Hear that moms and dads? Your child will lose, make a bad grade, not get the role they wanted, and probably make some really dumb choices that will embarrass you and them alike. It’s there, in that moment of failure and disappointment, that men and women are made. It’s there that real lessons of humility, perseverance, responsibility, and grace are learned. As much as it hurts you too, do not rob them of the chance to learn these lessons by pinning losses and failures on the ref, the teacher, the coach, the other team, or the “bad influence” of a peer. Allow them to own it, feel the sting as needed, and then get up and grow! They’ll be better men and women, and heaven knows we need more of those!
Our kids are scholars, athletes, and artists--and pretty good ones too. But it’s the deeper victories that make my heart swell. Godly young men and women of strong character--that's where we should take the most pride.
Well done 2016/17 TCA Eagles. You're not done yet!