NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

The beauty and excitement of sports: Forming connections and friendships on the field

When we think about sports we mostly think of the game and the athletes playing it, but it is so much more than that with many ways to be involved with a sport.

First, I want to introduce myself and my situation.

When I was about two years old, I was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy a form of muscular dystrophy.

This is a disorder where over time my muscles would deteriorate and eventually, I would lose my ability to walk. I am not going to sugar code it growing up with this was not easy and I faced many challenges. The funny scenario was that even though I would never be able to play sports, I began to found myself falling in love with sports.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and I needed to find a way to get myself involved with sports because I had no interest in anything else.

My mom would always try to get me to try new things like playing an instrument, but I could just not find myself interested at all.

In elementary school and throughout schooling throughout my whole life I always found myself hanging out with kids who participated in a sport which sparked my attention because I felt I could help.
In the eighth grade one of my best friends Devan Debay was considering not playing for our local football team the Pelham Razorbacks.

Devan played for the program since the third-grade level and was about to give up the last year. I could not let that happen, it was really bothering me because my whole life all I wanted to do was just strap up my pads and go play with my friends.

I knew I had to try and convince him to play somehow, but it was not going to be an easy task. At the time the problem was

Devan wanted to play hockey and move on from football.

The problem that every kid runs into when playing sports growing up is that it gets kind of political in a way.

For example, if the head coach had a son on the team, he would get the ball more, or if someone was involved with the organization for a time might have a pull on who plays and who doesn’t. I know this sounds a bit crazy because we were only 13 years old, but sadly it was a reality.

These issues couldn’t get in the way, I had to let my passion kick in and make sure this kid hears what I have to say.

So, one day I called Devan over to my house asking if he wanted to hang out. He did not know but I was going to use this time to do everything I could to have him play football.

I wanted to take a friendly approach I did not want him to feel like I was mad or disappointed that he wouldn’t play.

I made sure before he goes to my house I pulled out one of our old Razorback state championship sweatshirt, a helmet, and a football. I kind of wanted to use these as symbols to him. When he first entered my room, I told him he can we talk for a couple of minutes, and that is where our conversation began.

I started off by saying how I truly felt about my situation and asked how he thinks I feel when I see all our friends playing a sport or even doing an activity that I couldn’t do?

I was not trying to make him feel bad, but I wanted to him to kind of step into my perspective before I started talking about him playing his last year.

I remember Devan had a pretty good answering, “Well Tom, I know it sucks that you cannot play but you have to realize you give us motivation to keep going.” After he said that I knew I could have a chance of talking him out of quitting. I started by putting the sweatshirt on and bringing up the memories we had as kids.

When it wasn’t serious and playing football was a lot about having fun. I said, remember every Saturday morning from the past 7 years when your parents would come into your room and wake you up to play and you could even hear the excitement in their voice?

Do you remember all the hard work staying at Muldoon Park until almost 9 p.m. every night and then waking up and going to school? It was not all for nothing and I needed to him to start realizing that.

The conversation began to drift because I think he knew what I was trying to accomplish so I decided to keep it real. Devan was always short growing and was smaller than everyone even me, so you can figure that football would be a hard task for him. The thing is, it wasn’t, Devan was stronger than almost everyone even though he was half of our height.

That is one of the beautiful things about sports, as much as you think all that stuff matters it doesn’t. I remineded him how his toughness always got him through things in life. No matter how small he was he would still somehow end up making plays and at the end of the day that is what matters.

Our eighth grade Razorback team had a lot of issues going into the year, we went from a 40-kid team all the way down to 18 because a lot of kids felt the way Devan did.

I needed him to remember all the excitement, running out of the tunnel, getting our names announced, or even scoring a touchdown.

I asked him, in those moments how did you feel? He answered with, “I felt like I was on top of the world.” That is when I knew what I was saying was getting through to Devan. I then brought up this was our last year to all play with the kids we all grew up with.

As kids were moving on to private high schools, and different sports times were changing, and I wanted him to feel that.
How are you going to feel on a Saturday night when we are all under the lights as a family and you are on the sidelines? He said,

“Not good, and I hear what you are saying trust me I just feel like I might not get my opportunity.”

What he was missing is that is what sports is all about working harder than others and proving yourself to everyone. You are one of the strongest tacklers I have seen play football and you are shorter than everyone on the field, you are the underdog, and you need to use it as motivation as you have your whole life, I told Devan.

Finally, he did end up giving in and agreeing to play his final year. It was a great decision because that Razorback team will never be forgotten by anyone who was on that team.

Devan even told the head coach that the only reason why he was playing was because of me and our conversation coach answered with, “Well next scrimmage make sure you bring him I’ll get him a jersey and he will be on the team, he is one of us now.”

My life changed forever being a part of that team got me to fall in love with sports and everything about it.

There is no better feeling than stepping on a field with your brothers and fighting it out for your own town. Although we lost more than half of our team, we went on to win the State Championship.

That is why sports is so beautiful and brings so much excitement to not only the players, but the coaches, the fans, etc.

It does not come down to who has the biggest muscles or who can life the most weights or speed, none of that.

What matters is you love going out and putting in your time and effort for your team no matter what.

What matter is you giving your all even when up against someone bigger or stronger than you.

That is the beauty of it all.