A decades-old tradition in my small, beachside town; the annual charity flag football game. The senior girls from my town get to play the senior girls from our rival town on one stressful Saturday morning before Thanksgiving.
When explaining this event to outsiders, it seems like just a fun thing that no one will take seriously. What is unexpected, is the amount of passion and hard work that is put into this event.
Beginning in October, we spent two hours each school night practicing. Senior year is not easy. Taking two hours out of your night to run around in the dark originally seemed like a waste of time to me. Then, we started practicing.
We started each practice in the dark, and we ended each practice in the dark. We ran, we laughed, we fell, we got up. I soon found myself loving the game of football itself, and I was putting all of my efforts into it. What I don't think I was expecting, however, was the friendships I was soon to make.
By senior year, you've most likely changed who your close friends are tons of times. There were also some girls that I have seen in passing in the halls for years, but I've never gotten to know. When we were all put on a team together, it didn't matter what "clique" you were in or what you're hobbies were, we were a team.
I began rekindling friendships with people that I use to be close with. I finally talked to that shy girl from my homeroom. I was depended on to block girls that I had only ever shared a smile with.
We became a team.
So the night before our game, we knew we had worked the hardest we could have, and we knew how badly we wanted that win. We were prepped that the other girls may play rough, they may break some rules and make us furious. But we were told to keep our heads up, stay classy, and play as a team.
The game came and our coaches sure had been right. We gave that game everything we had, so when we lost in overtime you can imagine the heartbreak we felt.
Sure, winning was the ultimate goal, and it stung for a little while to feel as if all our efforts hadn't paid off. But, the upsides sure outweighed the downsides.
We raised over $15,000 for our charity.
We brought a huge portion of the town out to spend the morning together.
We became a team.
It was just one month of learning how to play a sport I had only ever watched. It was just one month of learning the importance of leadership, inclusiveness, and community.