I’m a Winner?
Three years after I arrived in the United States (1960), I started playing baseball, basketball and football in little leagues in Miami. I was fortunate to play in South Miami were they had great coaches. They encourage us to be Winners. I was 11 years old and I would ask myself. I’m a Winner? What does Being a Winner mean?
My grandfather, Cappy, was a famous basketball coach at Belen High School. He coached thousands of high school kids that became very successful in sports, business and beyond. Two of those were my dad and this other guy, Fidel. So I had good training since the day I was born.
Football was not my game. However, my father and grandfather had played in club leagues in Cuba, My father also played 150 Lbs football at Villanova University. They encouraged me to play for the South Miami Blue Devils.
During try out week, I went with two of my friends, Carlos and Bobby. You could not weigh more than 95 pounds. Bobby and I were 75 pounds and Carlos just made it. After a week Bobby decide to be a Rock Star and Carlos went into his family travel business. I decide to stay.
I’m a Loser?
The day of the first cut, I was told that I had to play in a beginners league, 6-man football, for smaller kids. Oh boy, I was upset, crying and went home. The next day Mr Palmer, our coach, told me that I was to old to play with smaller kids. Hence, I was moved up to the Blue Devils. Now, I was happy again.
The happiness lasted one day. i got the cheapest, worst equipment. Most of the kids that played the previous year got new equipment. I went home screaming. My grandfather calmed me down. Relax that when the season starts I will get new uniforms and equipment, like everyone else. So I believed him.
I was placed in the practice squad to play middle line-backer. We helped the first team offense practice their plays against an opponents defense. I had no idea what to do. Cappy, who went to all my practices and games, suggested I tackle anyone who had the ball.
So I did. I was sneaky and fast. i remembered all the plays and I knew who was going to get the ball. At the snap of the ball, I would fly in between the linesman and tackle whoever got the ball in the backfield. The coaches were always screaming at the lineman, ” block Speedy”. That was me.
Fast forward to the first game. Before the game, coach Palmer came up to me and asked me, Speedy are you ready to play? You are staring at middle line backer. .My first “Kundalini” experience. What a rush of energy flying through my body. I was thrilled and ready to play.
Being a Winner
The Blue Devils won every game, except one. We went to the Jr Orange Bowl Parade and I had become addicted to the energy of playing a warrior’s game.
We had a hell of a team, many of my teammates played at college and even pro-levels. In the awards banquet everyone was anxious waiting who would get the MVP trophy. I was sure it was going to be one of the offensive backs that scored many of the touchdowns.
Coach Palmer started telling a story of a little guy from another country that…
did not speak English very well,
quit.because he was asked to play 6-man football,
got upset because he could not play offense,
hated to lose,
practiced hard everyday,
had a football mind that made him bigger than he is,
made 50% of the all the team tackles,
was the inspiration of the best defense of the league,
cared about his teammates,
today he would probably won’t believe that he is our MVP,
Speedy come up and get your Trophy…You deserve it.
Cappy smiled and clapped with my Happy mother.
My father, at work, knew I would Win.
Inhale I’m a Winner, exhale you are Winner
El Happy Coach
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