'Come and watch us play," the boys had been saying. I knew my second-grade boys were playing football during recess. Daily, they would come back into the classroom filled with enthusiasm about successful passes and touchdowns. Each boy had taken a football player's name, as well. While I'm not a fan myself, I recognized the names as members of our nearby AFC East Division champions. So now the kids wanted me to watch them play.
The huge playground was filled, since all the classes had recess at the same time. But I found my boys, weaving in and out between the other children, in their carefully planned plays. I had heard snippets of their coatroom discussions, so I knew they had already determined who was going to pass, receive, carry the ball, and so on. I suspected they were acting out plays they had seen in the most recent televised games. Throughout the entire recess, their well-orchestrated play continued.
To my surprise, however, they were not using a football.
When we all returned to the classroom, the boys were, as usual, enthusiastically talking about their plays and wanted to know what I thought about their game. I was appreciative of their play, and of being invited to share it. But I was puzzled and asked, "Why aren't you using a football?" The answer was simple, logical. They couldn't control the ball (they were only eight years old) the way they needed to in order to play the game they wanted to play. The obvious solution: Forgo the ball.
Years later, I still smile when I think about the boys' total joy in those football games. They fully participated in the passing, receiving - all the intricacies of the game. They played well; they were winners.
I am still in awe of their vision, their focus on doing well what they could do, and not getting entangled or defeated by what they could not yet accomplish. Competent ball-handling skills may have come later. I never knew.
As I think further, perhaps it wasn't even the football game the boys were playing; but, rather that they were trying on greatness. The boys were being heroes for 15 minutes each day.