A Schoolyard Lesson
"Get up, get up you have school today," my mother blurted out, as I fell out of bed. I stood up and waddled to the bathroom. Looking into the mirror I smiled to myself; I knew today was going to be just fine. My family and I had just moved from Guatemala, and today was to be my first day at Bel Air Elementary School. I usually don't get worried about these situations, since I've been through the routine before, besides I tend to make friends pretty easily. Why would today be any different, I told myself.
I finished brushing my teeth and splashing my face, then continued to get dressed. I threw on some Bugle Boy caches, a Polo shirt, and some Nikes. After giving up on my hair; I ran into the kitchen and snatched my lunch box off the counter. Soon I was out the door and on to face my first day at my new school.
After defeating the labyrinth of streets that we call our neighborhood, and meeting my first crossing guard; I made my way into the school. It was quite crowded , but I knew where I was headed. I proceeded up the stairs and down the hall to room 212, where I sat down in the front row. I turned around and took a quick peak at the class; scanning the room for someone to talk to. When I saw no opportunities I began to get a bit timid, but as soon as the bell rang I felt all right.
We went through the motions for awhile: filling out paper work, introducing ourselves, all the first day stuff. I heard a few kids say they were new to the area, of which Brian Vedder was the only boy. He wasn't much to look at, not a soap opera star, or a great athlete, just a regular kid. Nonetheless I thought I'd like to meet him and talk to him later on in the day.
By this time we all were becoming restless, and I definitely knew why. Everyone was waiting for recess, the time when kids get to have fun and let it all hang out. After all we didn't have class all summer, and keeping our butts in those chairs for so long was beginning to hurt.
Lunch rolled around and we knew what that meant; recess was next. The bell rang and everyone ran outside, bursting onto the playground like a swarm of locusts attacking crops. I saw many games going on: dodgeball, soccer, jump roping, and many others. It seemed all right, but it wasn't what I expected. I couldn't believe that no one was playing football. Even in Guatemala we played football; I wondered what I could do.
That day when I came home from school, I searched through our "bucket of balls" for my football. Yes, I found it, my black and yellow, mini Steelers ball. I began to think how I could integrate football into the lives of the kids. The first thing that popped into my mind was Brian Vedder who I had met earlier that day; he knew a few of the soccer players and he might be able to get them to play football. The next person I could count on was Melvin Jackson. I met Melvin while in math class, he was new to the school too, and he was dying to play football too. With these two I could at least throw the ball around, and hope for others to join in.
The next morning I awoke to the same routine as usual. I put on some clothes and belted out the door a little earlier than usual. When I got to school I hid my ball in my backpack until I could stuff it into my cubby hole. Then I looked for Melvin, he was across the hall in Mrs. Symms class where I had math class. I went up to him and asked him if he'd play football with me at recess. He told me he would love to and even told his friend Sean Gravely about it. Well at least now I didn't have to ask for Brian's help.
Recess came again that day as it had before, but Melvin, Sean, and I had a little agenda to take care of. We strolled out onto the playground, and across the asphalt to the field where the soccer guys played. Melvin began to run, and I unleashed the ball from my hand. It floated through the air in a perfect spiral until it landed down on his fingertips. At once we had spectators. Boom! Sean punted the ball, and it skied forward. More and more kids watched, as if wondering what was going on. Kofi, the biggest guy in school, and popular soccer player called for the ball. I launched one over to him and he smiled. "Lets get a game together guys," he said in eager anticipation. We agreed, but I wasn't done, I wanted everyone to have a chance to take part in Bel Air's first football game. I scurried back to the playground, where I proceeded to ask the "nerds" if they wanted to play to. A few surprised individuals came with me and we set up teams.
I was the quarterback for my team, so that I could control the game and decide who was going to get the ball, besides I had the best arm out of everyone. Plus I didn't want the less athletic guys to be pushed to the side and be used as blockers. Our first play went to Melvin; a long bomb that helped us advance up the field. My second pass was incomplete as I overthrew my receiver. Tim dropped my third pass and we were stuck in a jam. Melvin said he would be open, and so did John, but I had a plan. "Hike!" My players were off, everyone ran deep or at least father than they had to; all we needed was one completion. That is when I did it; I threw the ball to Kyle Kaneshiro. "Yes!" We had a first down and Kyle, a typical "nerd" with glasses came back to the huddle with a huge smile. I don't think he ever thought he'd really be getting the ball today, but I gave it to him and he came through. The game went on, although it was very one sided. My diverse squad, that ranged from speedy black guys like Melvin to slower guys like Kyle had "wrecked shop" on the opposition.
As the bell rang and the teachers called us back into the building, Kyle came up to me and thanked me for letting him play. He told me that he had always wanted to participate, but had always been afraid of the "cooler" guys. I told him that was a bunch of crap and from that day on Kyle was on my team. He was my secret weapon, my "third down back" who never dropped the ball.
After leaving Bel Air Elementary that year and moving up to Godwin Middle; we had to get used to not having recess anymore. No more school yard football to keep us happy, but Godwin did have a school team. I tried out and so did Melvin; we didn't play much because the older guys where better than us. But when we got the chance as we grew up we always looked back on what we had learned on the field at Bel Air. We used the whole team to make ourselves better, and when push came to shove, we didn't go with the big studs like Kofi and Sherman we went to guys like Kyle. They were the guys that really made the difference, the ones who helped keep a team together, and the ones that made our teams win. Thanks Kyle for making a difference.