It was a Friday evening in November. I was on the P.K. Yonge football team and we were on our way from Gainesville to take on an opponent in a town 70 miles away. This game was thought to be a “gimme” game for us. We were quite hot (undefeated) and our opponent was quite cold (win-less). During the hour and a half bus ride over, we were all laughing and joking and having a big time. To say we were quite confident about winning this game would be an understatement! As we neared the school, our head coach, Coach Gutierrez, settled us down to get us focused on the game.
The day before, Coach told us to come prepared for this game with an extra undershirt to wear under our pads as the forecast was for cold weather. As we found out, the weather was indeed, very, very COLD!!
Arriving at the school, we all got off and filed into the visitor's locker room to change into our football uniforms. We had quite a rude awakening as we were greeted with a freezing cold locker room! Every window was open and there was no heat! Our coaches were furious and so were us players. As the coaches closed the windows and went to get someone to turn on the heat, the team’s attention shifted from playing the game to the unscrupulous acts of the opposition. We were all mentally fuming as we put on our uniforms. This irritation meant our focus was not on the game.
At the end of the first half, we headed back to the locker room to get out of the cold. We had envisioned a warm locker room for a little reprieve and to get ready for the second half. But, surprise! Even though we had closed all the windows before we went out to start the game, someone had entered our locker room during the first half and had reopened all the windows and shut off the heat!! Again, our focus shifted from the game and was back on the actions of some unscrupulous people.
The second half was hard fought but we came out on the short end of the score, 21-15. As the clock ran out, their All-State quarterback held the football up in the air and yelled at us, “Ha, ha! We beat the mighty P.K. Yonge Blue Wave!”
Adding salt to the wound, we found the windows in the locker room had once again been opened and the heat turned off! Needless to say, we all opted to forego showers and boarded the bus for the long, somber ride home.
I was a junior at the time and remember all of us saying, “They have to play us next year in Gainesville, and we’re gonna make ’em pay!”
The next year, the game against this team couldn’t come soon enough! We were anxious to play them on our turf. We’d show them!!
As we prepared, we players all talked about the prior year’s game and the taunting from their All-State quarterback. Coach knew we were wired-up for this game and he told us to stay focused on OUR game and not to resort to THEIR game on or off the field! Coach went on to say to the effect; “I know that the need for payback is in your minds. But don’t let that distract you. Keep your head in the game. If you are distracted with revenge, you won’t be able to focus on your plays. Remember, your focus determines your reality!”
And we were focused for sure! We gave them fits during the entire game as we played “lights-out!” We all worked in unison to shut down their All-Everything quarterback (who had taunted us the year before) by executing the way Coach had taught us to do. I even blocked one of his punts which pleased me to no end!
My teammates were spectacular in their determination and focus. As the clock wound down to the end of the game, we came out with a 27-0 victory!
To the best of my knowledge, no one associated with our team or school did anything that was unscrupulous. No windows in their locker room were left open. Instead, we all kept focused on playing the game to the very best of our ability.
Throughout my life, I’ve thought about this lesson. People and events can distract you from accomplishing your goals by stealing your focus…..but, ONLY if you let them.
“You will not reach your destination if you stop and throw rocks at every dog that barks.” - Winston Churchill