Red Hawk Pride

Over the last few weeks, I reconnected with my old high school by following a couple of teams with my camera. It would be easy for me to sit here and feel like I am somehow giving back and helping these guys by documenting some games for them - and I know that they appreciate it. However, the reality is that they have shown, taught and given me much more.

What I have seen in this football team is a bunch of young men that don’t quit. No matter the opponent, no matter the score, quitting is not an option for them. I see a close knit group that fights til the final buzzer. I see hard workers that persevere through empty stands and opponents that are ranked #1 in the state. I see young men come to the sidelines to have a coach chew their ear off, only to run out there on the next set of downs and play harder. I see appreciative guys who approach me on the sidelines to thank me for the support and the pictures. I see a team full of heart, grit and pride.

They are built of the most important things and have the kind of determination to get back up when they get knocked down. I think of this team like Steve Rodgers in Captain America. Before Steve becomes Captain America he is the skinny, frail kid from the Bronx who tries to stand up to a bully in the movie theatre. This moves to a scene in the alley where the bully continues to punch Steve, knocking him down. Rodgers, wobbling and beaten continues to get back up saying, “I can do this all day”. That is what I saw from this team - they may have been fighting against all odds but they never gave up.

In my experience, life is a lot like these games. We get knocked down, we get hit, we lose. So take on life just like you did these games; don’t give up, keep working hard and never quit striving to be your best. I promise - you won’t regret it, just like I am sure you don’t regret the hard work you put in to be part of this team.

While I cannot attend the last game this year; let me take a moment to say thank you to all of the players and the coaches who are molding them. Thank you for making me proud of my alma mater, for bringing back that sense of place I lost when I left this school 25 years ago. For reminding me that finishing the race, no matter your place is what is important and that how you run that race can be just as impactful. While the season from a win-loss standpoint isn’t going to bring any trophies home, take pride Red Hawks, this season was anything but a failure. I look forward to seeing your future success - on the field and in your lives.

All photos ©Damion Van Slyke.

Damion Van Slyke