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Afraid of getting hurt

image courtesy of google images

image courtesy of google images

A week ago Tuesday:

As he does five days a week, my son emerges from his room around 6:00 a.m. dressed in shorts and shirt courtesy of the school’s athletic department. His first class of the day is football. On most mornings that’s a good thing: roll out of bed, put on your athletic clothes, eat some breakfast and go. But this is not most mornings.

It’s Day One of Hell Week.

The term Hell Week is a bit of a misnomer. While most of the players would say the intense workouts consisting of everything from bear crawls and up downs, tire flips and sleds to good old fashioned power lifting, sprints and jumping rope is hell, it typically doesn’t last a week. Instead, it goes on until the coaches decide it’s over. If one or more of your teammates isn’t putting forth his best effort, everyone pays for it with added days. It’s a way to simultaneously strengthen the team and thin out the herd. Some set themselves apart, others decide it’s not worth it and quit football altogether. Most just keep their heads down and endure.

Knowing my son, it came as no surprise when I saw the anxiety on his face last Tuesday morning. He’s been through hell week before, but as a freshman with an all freshman class. This year he’s in there with the big boys–all upperclass linemen. He’s going to have to prove his worth against bigger and more experienced athletes. Still, it’s the first day. Getting stressed out to a point where you can’t even eat breakfast isn’t going to do you any good.  I told him as much, not that any of my advice penetrated the fog of anxiety he was in.

As expected, Day One was “hellish”. They were divided up into 4 groups: A, B, C and D–“A” being the best. My son was put on the “B” team, which considering that “A” consisted of mostly varsity players, I thought was pretty good. But by the end of class, he had been moved to the “C” team. When he got home, he didn’t want to talk about it. “I just have to do better”, he said.

In some situations, I would have left it at that–let him lick his wounds and try again tomorrow. But not this time, because there is absolutely no good reason he should have been moved down. I say this not because I’m one of those parents who thinks my kid is better than he really is. I say this because I’ve spent the last two off seasons driving my son to and from strength and conditioning training five days a week; watching him build muscle, speed and agility performing most of the drills the coaches are putting them through now. If he got moved down, I knew it had more to do with the muscle in that big head of his than any of the muscles used to push sleds and flip tractor tires.

I couldn’t let it go. I pressed him. I asked him what was so hard about the first day of hell week. They didn’t do anything he hasn’t done before.  He finally told me what the problem was.

Son: Mom, I’m afraid of getting hurt.

Me: You’re afraid of getting hurt? After going through a year of weight and speed training specifically designed to prevent injury? After putting in more time in a year than many of your teammates put in their entire high school athletic careers you’re afraid of getting hurt? After two seasons of playing football essentially injury free you’re afraid of getting hurt? If you go into hell week thinking you’re going to get hurt one of two thing will happen. You’re either going to get hurt, or you’re going to perform under your potential and all that training will have been a big waste of time and money.

By Wednesday, he had been moved back up to “B” team with a personal goal of being moved up to “A”, provided that hell week continues past Thursday. We’ll see what happens.

You can’t play a contact sport like football if you’re afraid of getting hurt. What you can do is trust your hard work and training.

You can’t stand up and sing in front of a crowd if you’re afraid of forgetting the lyrics or singing off key. What you can do is rehearse the song so many times that it’s forever burned into your mind.

You can’t write a book if you’re afraid of being panned by critics. What you can do is write the best story you can, and then you write it again with the knowledge that there’s no such thing as a universal audience for a book. If someone doesn’t like your work, it’s because it’s just not for them.

You can’t ride a bike, learn to drive, interview for a job, save a life, fall in love, lead someone to Christ or make a difference if you’re afraid of getting hurt.

Life is full of hurt. When we choose not to pursue something out of fear, we feel the hurt of regret for what could have been.

And that’s the kind of hurt we can seldom overcome.

image courtesy of google images

image courtesy of google images

On patience and painting

Last month I wrote a post called Holding on to the past. If you missed it, I talked about how we had ordered new furniture and bedding for my daughter’s room. Because she suffers from what many of us suffer from: too much stuff and not enough space to put it all, she finally agreed to part with a sizable collection of My Little Ponies, Littlest Pet Shop Pets, Barbies and all the various and sundry paraphernalia that accompanies said collections. Save for that one special item we retrieved from the giveaway box, all the others toys she agreed to part with are gone in order to make room for the new furniture. Her old desk and chair and a very large storage unit/entertainment center from IKEA are also gone. Her bed is still here, but it’s disassembled and will most likely be picked up this weekend.

The redecorating process is going as planned, just not as scheduled.

I received a call on Tuesday informing me that the furniture tentatively scheduled to be delivered July 15 will instead be delivered on Monday. Yeah, this coming Monday.


I had planned to take my sweet time getting my daughter’s room painted. That’s all changed. It has now become a bit of a rush job. Having said that, a rush painting job does not equate to sloppy or bad painting job. I’m fairly laid back about certain jobs I do around the house, but I’m a little particular when it comes to painting.

Soup Nazi photo courtesy of

Which would be fine if my daughter wasn’t so helpful. She REALLY wanted to help me paint. She’s asked me roughly 74 times when that would happen. She wasn’t really interested in the patching and cleaning of the walls and baseboards, the removal of the outlet covers, the retexturing of the mysterious hole in the wall and whatnot.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t exactly excited about the prospect of her helping me paint. Like I said, I’m a little particular about how a room should be painted. But we both shared some valuable lessons today. She practiced patience while I performed all those mundane but necessary tasks before the actual painting began

She learned how to roll paint on the wall

I learned that I actually didn’t freak out when things weren’t done exactly the way I would do it

(Okay, I freaked out a little. I also rolled over that spot.)

She rolled, I cut in. We’ve got a day’s worth of painting yet to do. But I’m confident we can work as a team and have her room ready before the Monday furniture delivery without any major incidents.

Maybe just some minor ones…

Update: That previous picture looked kinda weird. Here's the wall after I cut it in with a brush.

Classes in Life (by Billy Coffey)

Classes have begun in earnest at the college where I work. The serenity that was summer is now long forgotten, replaced by the franticness of fall. Hundreds of fresh and not-so-fresh faces are about, crowding classrooms and sidewalks in a symphony of chaos. Some of these faces are cool and collected, veterans of higher education. Others have the look of a lost child in a busy shopping mall—freshmen.

College is getting to be a more and more important part of life. Whereas folks my age could make a decent living with nothing more than a high school diploma, that’s not the case now. The world is changing. It’s bigger and more complex then when I was a teenager, and it’s easy to get turned around and never find your way.

Which is why all of these students are here—to find their way.

And I can think of fewer places better suited for such an endeavor. The college here offers dozens of majors and minors and three graduate programs. The professors are brilliant and products of some of the finest universities in the world. The administration is dedicated and professional. Both work together to ensure that each student receives the necessary knowledge in his or her declared discipline to find success in the world.

Last week I spoke with Emily, a young lady who had done just that—found success. It wasn’t long ago when she walked across the lawn just down from where I’m sitting now, fetched her diploma from the President of the college, and said hello to the real world. It was an easy introduction. She’d already fielded several job offers and one marriage proposal.

Life was good. No, better than good. Easy.

Now, two years later, Emily knows better. Her job is steady, but also stressful and demanding. And the marriage proposal she accepted was rescinded one year and one child later, leaving her a single mom.

“Don’t get me wrong,” she said. “Life is still good. It’s just not that easy.”

I understood. College can’t get you ready for everything.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it could, though? If college could not only give you theories and laws, but training for life’s hiccups as well? Yes. Now then we’d have something.

I’m not privy to decisions concerning curriculum and how much of what must be taught. I’m simply an underling, paid not to form policy but to make sure the day-to-day runs smoothly. I have no fancy initials under my name, no suit and tie, and the only piece of paper framed on my wall is a movie poster from Tombstone.

But what I lack in formal education I more than make up for in experience, which just so happens to be a fine instructor as well. And while the students I see throughout the day are getting much in the way of preparation for the workplace, I think improvements could be made in the way of preparation for life.

Classes like Applied Mathematics, General Physics II, and Mass Media Law and Ethics are fine in themselves. They do seem to be pretty specific, though. How about some classes that offer both a broader appeal and a more practical application?

Maybe something like Bearing Hardship 101, for instance. Because sooner or later every student here will have to do that.

Developing Patience would be another good one. Also a class I would gladly pay to attend.

Holding Onto Hope should be a requirement for all graduating seniors, if only because hope seems to be so easily snatched away nowadays.

Cleaning Child Vomit 350? A must for the future parent. Being Thankful 400 would be just what people need to keep a little perspective. And let’s not forget Living Well and Dying Better 750.

Like all the other classes offered here, there would be lectures and papers and finals. But I’m thinking the class attendance would be greater. And I’m thinking the grades would matter more, too.

Of course, it’s doubtful any of this would ever happen. On most college campuses knowledge will always trump experience. But maybe that’s just as well. Classes like those probably wouldn’t work anyway. Most of what happens in life you just can’t be prepared for, no matter how much studying you do. Just ask Emily, who now knows that the world might indeed be a classroom, but it’s the sort of classroom where often the tests come first and the lessons come later.


To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at What I Learned Today and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.