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Take a deep breath and run the laps

When I was in ninth grade I played football — defensive line. I was a big guy and I wanted to play, but I was still learning the game.

In the classroom, I sometimes got in trouble for asking, “Why?” I wanted to understand why we needed to learn some things and how they were going to fit into our lives. And I wanted to know why things had to be done a certain way — could they not be done another way, or was this supposed to be the “best” way?

But on the football field and practice field it was different. If the coach told me to do something, I did it. There was no asking why to do it. Just do it.

One day we paired up as linemen in our shorts and shoulder pads and pushed a two-man sled across the practice field with the coach riding it. The sled was a large, heavy object with two man-sized pads on the front for us to hit and push against. Coach rode on the sloped metal backside of the contraption.

We were told to hit and push, hit and push, and so on until we just pushed for 20 yards or so.

“Go! Go! Harder, Campbell! Hit it harder, Campbell! Harder!”

So I hit it harder, and harder. And hit it hard enough that Coach lost his hold and fell off.

“Sorry, Coach.”

Coach was angry and got back on the sled.

“Hit it, Campbell! Hit it! Hit it harder! Harder! Harder!”

And then it broke. I knocked the man-sized pad and its old wooden backer board off the metal frame.

Coach and I looked at the board on the grass, then at each other.

“Campbell, you broke my sled.”

“Sorry, Coach.”

So he made me hit the metal frame instead and push the sled with him on it across the length of the practice field.

Another day he told me to take advantage of a big gap in the offensive line during a practice scrimmage and scare the quarterback. It would teach the offensive guards to pay attention to their spacing, he said.

So on the hike, I stepped quickly through the gap and yelled in the quarterback’s face. I didn’t touch him — we made contact with no one other than linemen during practice. But it scared him enough to drop the ball and then the offensive linemen creamed me.

The head coach yelled — what did I think I was doing? Coach told me to do that, I replied. But Coach shook his head and said, “No, I didn’t.”

I got angry and said something I shouldn’t have, especially as a ninth-grader to a coach/teacher. So I ran laps around the complete athletic area during the entirety of the next day’s three-hour practice.

I deserved it. I would have had to do it even if I’d kept my mouth shut. The head coach would have made me do it, I’m sure.

But the fact remained that I was punished for something I was told to do. I was a good little soldier following instructions that came from my superior, my coach, my mentor and leader.

I make mistakes, too often. I don’t like that fact. I also hate to admit that I’ve failed at something, even if it’s minor. But I do. I have a personal policy to admit to my failures even if it costs me a job or raise, a relationship, a friendship, or something else. It sometimes has.

I’m still paying the price for some of the times I wouldn’t admit to my foul-ups in the past. Though I’ve failed at some things, that does not mean I’ve failed at everything. When something goes wrong, sometimes it’s my fault and sometimes it’s not.

We cause some problems. We inherit others. We should not be held responsible for the creation of the ones we inherit — only how we handle them.

This applies to singles and married couples, parents and grandparents, teachers and politicians, and everyone else. We must deal with our issues/problems/situations — asking for help if we need it — and move on.

Take a deep breath, try to look at things with a new perspective, say a prayer, don’t be a jerk. Say you’re sorry. Do your best.

And when necessary, run the laps.

Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com or 601-265-5307.