The movie Little Giants has been a staple in our house for a long time. The night before the big game, Kevin (played by the incomparable Ed O’Neill) gives his players a stirring speech, telling them to go home and “dream the sweet dreams of football glory.”
I heard one of my favorite non-fiction stories about such dreams when I was writing The Fields of Fall. Todd Bladt, now an assistant coach at Harlan and son of long-time coach Curt Bladt, got together with some friends when they were in third grade – third grade – and made a pact that they were going to win three state championships once they got to high school. They wrote it down in a letter and all signed it.
He said, “We fell a little short of that goal—we were only two-time champs—our junior and senior years. But fairly close.”
Yeah, not bad.
Dreams are good. Dreams are where all accomplishments begin. Without dreams, we wouldn’t have cars, computers, cures for diseases—or state football titles.
But without doing, dreams don’t mean anything. Dreams set the framework; hard work helps to get them realized.
Hard work should have already begun for high school football athletes this summer. Those that were up at 6:00 a.m. and in the weight room shortly thereafter are already ahead of the guys that were sleeping in every day. The boys that were playing baseball games every night have an edge over those that were having a few beers with the fellas out on a country road. The willingness to do the extra stuff on your own and not just what a coach is telling you to do is what separates champions from also-rans.
Joel Osborne, a former multi-sport standout at Harlan and currently an assistant football coach and DII national champion Northwest Missouri State, didn’t mind a full day’s work in the summer.
“At Harlan, there was a lot to accomplish,” he said. “We would have three-sport workouts. We would have a basketball workout, lift, then come back and throw. That was a pretty basic summer morning. Then we would come back later that afternoon and have a baseball game.”
Osborne was a member of state championship teams in baseball, football and basketball—another example of dreaming and doing.
With camps starting next week for most teams in Iowa and practices starting the week after, dreams of football glory and doing what it takes to achieve them go into full throttle. Work hard, boys, because dreams alone won’t get you to the Dome.