An Open Letter To Nick Fitzgerald

An Open Letter To Nick Fitzgerald

Thank you for your leadership.
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It was November 23rd, a regular Thanksgiving for most, and a regular Thanksgiving + the Egg Bowl for others.

The game was off to a semi-okay start for both teams, of course, minus the fact State was down 7-0.

We are early in the first quarter, it's a 2nd- and- 7 run, before we know it our beloved Nicky Fitz is down. In that moment there were tears- from him and every Mississippi State fan (obviously)- there was also a lot of questioning. We all worried if he would be back, now we know- according to his tweet, he will be back and better than ever next season.

Nick, you need to know how we are feeling. I am sure you already know, but here it is one more time.

Our dearest Nick,

That "ankle injury" hurt us all. Probably not as bad as it hurt you, but it hurt us probably an equal amount emotionally.

From Davis Wade and sea to shining sea, we all saw it. We all felt it and to be honest we aren't excited about it either.

Only a few of us know you personally, but in that moment we all connected with you. We all saw the pain in your eyes and wanted nothing but healing and peace for you. We saw you lying on that field completely vulnerable and all we wanted was to help you, but obviously, none of us could.

We are hurting with you and for you, Nick, and I know it may not have seemed like it at the time or even days after but Ole Miss was hurting for you too. Even those awful Alabama fans.

Your injury may have been one of the more tragic things to happen to us this season, and we are not in anyway grateful for it, but we are thankful for the leadership role you quickly took on when it happened. You were the one who rallied a team who was lost without you, and then not long after you managed to comfort an entire school and community when we lost our head football coach.

Through this, you have united us all, and for that, we can not thank you enough. Over the past week, you have put on a brave face even though you were probably just as worried as the rest of us. You pulled it together because you knew that everyone needed you. Not just the team, but our whole community.

While we may doubt your throwing arm at times, none of us can doubt your incredible leadership abilities and for that we say thank you.

Much love,

MSU


Cover Image Credit: https://www.instagram.com/p/BcAzsg2niwv/?hl=en

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To The Coach Who Took Away My Confidence

You had me playing in fear.
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"The road to athletic greatness is not marked by perfection, but the ability to constantly overcome adversity and failure."

As a coach, you have a wide variety of players. You have your slow players, your fast players. You have the ones that are good at defense. You have the ones that are good at offense. You have the ones who would choose to drive and dish and you have the ones that would rather shoot the three. You have the people who set up the plays and you have the people who finish them. You are in charge of getting these types of players to work together and get the job done.

Sure, a coach can put together a pretty set of plays. A coach can scream their head off in a game and try and get their players motivated. A coach can make you run for punishment, or they can make you run to get more in shape. The most important role of a coach, however, is to make the players on their team better. To hopefully help them to reach their fullest potential. Players do make mistakes, but it is from those mistakes that you learn and grow.

To the coach the destroyed my confidence,

You wanted to win, and there was nothing wrong with that. I saw it in your eyes if I made a mistake, you were not too happy, which is normal for a coach. Turnovers happen. Players miss shots. Sometimes the girl you are defending gets past you. Sometimes your serve is not in bounds. Sometimes someone beats you in a race. Sometimes things happen. Players make mistakes. It is when you have players scared to move that more mistakes happen.

I came on to your team very confident in the way that I played the game. Confident, but not cocky. I knew my role on the team and I knew that there were things that I could improve on, but overall, I was an asset that could've been made into an extremely great player.

You paid attention to the weaknesses that I had as a player, and you let me know about them every time I stepped onto the court. You wanted to turn me into a player I was not. I am fast, so let me fly. You didn't want that. You wanted me to be slow. I knew my role wasn't to drain threes. My role on the team was to get steals. My role was to draw the defense and pass. You got mad when I drove instead of shot. You wanted me to walk instead of run. You wanted me to become a player that I simply wasn't. You took away my strengths and got mad at me when I wasn't always successful with my weaknesses.

You did a lot more than just take away my strengths and force me to focus on my weaknesses. You took away my love for the game. You took away the freedom of just playing and being confident. I went from being a player that would take risks. I went from being a player that was not afraid to fail. Suddenly, I turned into a player that questioned every single move that I made. I questioned everything that I did. Every practice and game was a battle between my heart and my head. My heart would tell me to go to for it. My heart before every game would tell me to just not listen and be the player that I used to be. Something in my head stopped me every time. I started wondering, "What if I mess up?" and that's when my confidence completely disappeared.

Because of you, I was afraid to fail.

You took away my freedom of playing a game that I once loved. You took away the relaxation of going out and playing hard. Instead, I played in fear. You took away me looking forward to go to my games. I was now scared of messing up. I was sad because I knew that I was not playing to my fullest potential. I felt as if I was going backward and instead of trying to help me, you seemed to just drag me down. I'd walk up to shoot, thinking in my head, "What happens if I miss?" I would have an open lane and know that you'd yell at me if I took it, so I just wouldn't do it.

SEE ALSO: The Coach That Killed My Passion

The fight to get my confidence back was a tough one. It was something I wish I never would've had to do. Instead of becoming the best player that I could've been, I now had to fight to become the player that I used to be. You took away my freedom of playing a game that I loved. You took away my good memories in a basketball uniform, which is something I can never get back. You can be the greatest athlete in the world, but without confidence, you won't go very far.

Cover Image Credit: Christina Silies

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Love, A True Fan

Yes I love this team, yes they are good, no I do not love them because they are good.

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I love my hometown. It is cute, we have good schools, and the people are generally nice.

What I do not love about my hometown is how close it is to Cleveland.

Don't get me wrong, I love the CLE, I just don't love the Browns.

I can remember being a passionate Steelers fan as far back as the third grade, which means I can also remember people arguing with me about football as far back as the third grade. Growing up being rivals with the home team, especially as a girl, was never easy because everyone just assumed I liked Pittsburgh because they were a good team. They quickly learned that I knew exactly what I was talking about and would quickly put anyone who questioned my knowledge on the sport or the team in their place.

All things considered, I've had a good sports fan life.

Just in my lifetime, I've seen my Steelers play in three Super Bowls, and win two. I've seen the Pittsburgh Penguins play in four Stanley Cup Finals, and win three, and I was at the 2017 Victory Parade. I shared in the happy shock when the Cavaliers came back from being down 3-1 in the NBA Finals and beat the Warriors for the first championship in Cleveland in over 50 years. I watched the Cleveland Indians play in the World Series, and last year I watched one of my favorite college football teams win the SEC, the Rose Bowl, and play in the National Championship.

So yeah, I can see how you'd accuse me of being a bandwagon fan, and why when the Steelers and Penguins both won championships in 2009 the other fifth graders in my class thought I just picked two teams who were good, but that does not mean it is true.

I know my teams, and my sports, well, and honestly, I've grown to love people challenging me on sports. No one expected an elementary school girl to be able to back herself up so well with football knowledge that the boys who actually played football knew they could not win that argument.

Yes, my teams have done well, but I have some connection to all of my teams, whether it be family or where I grew up, and I don't only care that they've won big games (although I'm not complaining).

Everyone tells me that I haven't really experienced what it is like to watch one of my teams struggle, but I have every intention on being just as devoted to my teams through those times as I was when they were winning. I was devoted to the Penguins in December of 2015 when they were thought to not be capable of making the playoffs that year so they fired their coach. I'll still wear my Cavaliers gear, despite the fact that they are struggling without LeBron. I'll be there when the Ben Roethlisberger retires and the Steelers' offense stinks because we never drafted a good back-up quarterback. And I'm already mentally preparing myself for the disaster that could come during this year's SEC Championship between Georgia and Alabama.

So don't take it out on me that your team is having a losing season, because I would love to have an in depth conversation with you about how the Cleveland Browns will never truly be good until they restructure their entire management and stop firing coaches every two years, despite how many Heisman winners they draft. And I'd love to tell you all about how the Penguins will never truly be down and out because Sidney Crosby really is the best player in the world, and I'll tell you why it's not Connor McDavid or Alex Ovechkin.

Here's to Super Bowls, Stanley Cups, and championships of all kinds. Everyone should experience what it's like to see your team win one, but be ready when they do because suddenly everyone wants to question how deep your loyalty runs when they do. But don't worry, I can back up why I love my teams, can you?

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