Many childhood memories can be traced back to local festivals or county fairs. What’s not to like about getting to hang out with friends, thrilling super fast amusement rides, grilled turkey legs that look like something out of the Flintstone’s cartoon, greased calf scrambles, and electric concerts by music legends?
While all of this sounds amazing, there are some memories I have about a local county fair that don’t fit the typical sounds, sights and smells of your traditional annual community gathering that honors anything from peanuts to porcupine freedom(this is an actual event).
This county fair came into town during late summer or early fall and was parked at our local high school. To be exact the festivities took place on our football practice field. The board of directors involved in the planning and organization of the event included several young men who shouted excitedly at all of the attendees.
There are many aspects of this fair that I can describe, but none of those things include kids eating cotton candy or strolling through the petting zoo amazed by the massive size of the exotic giraffes. Instead, the air is filled with the smell of fresh cut grass mixed with the odor of dirty laundry. Sounds include whistles being blown and young men grunting in pain as all energy leaves there body resembling an exorcism.
Football practices are designed to increase strength, endurance, and mental toughness to name a few things. When the practice schedule listed “County Fair” as one the days’ activities, players knew that there wouldn’t be any laughing with friends or fried Oreo’s to devour. I’m pretty sure the name was given out of sarcasm because of the amount of fun that was had by all.
Some of the activities that I remember were tortuous, painful and borderline abusive. These activities included but were not limited to: fifty pound weighted jump ropes while fully dressed in all pads and helmets, bear crawls for what seemed like miles, lineman chute drills, pushing a sled weighted down with grown men the length of the field, and army crawls for hours. Google any of these exercises and you will see the sarcasm of the name.
To go along with all of this, the temperature and humidity in South Alabama can be lethal and adding the equipment required to play football probably bumped the temperature up fifteen degrees to the already brutal conditions. The best way I know how to describe the conditions would be similar to being inside one of those wood fire pizza ovens with open flames. Not to mention that there had to have been some kind of force field surrounding our campus protecting the area from clouds and rain from three to six each afternoon.
Our coaches pushed us to the limits, not only during this activity, but during each activity that took place under their watch. You would be hard pressed to find a group that worked harder than that group of twenty or so players that made it through those brutal summer days for the first contest. The first game of the season didn’t go as anyone had planned as we lost to one of our county rivals, nor did the remaining nine games. We were winless in my final year suiting up for my alma mater. One thing remained constant throughout this journey. Our coaches never let up on the intensity or expectations of practices and games. If an outsider would’ve come to one of our practices late in the season, they would have thought we were competing for the region title.
Coaches and sports in general teach many life lessons. Recently, I realized that the football season we endured so many years ago is a lot like the Christian walk. Hard work in both aspects does not always produce immediate results. In football, it may take years for the program to see the fruits of a new philosophy. In our walk with Christ, a seed planted today may result in hundreds of lives changed thirty years from now. James 1:12 states “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial, because having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the lord has promised to those that love him.”
Many people told us we were crazy for enduring those long practices without seeing any results. “Why are you putting yourself through this, you won’t win a game?” “Why don’t you just quit, it isn’t worth it?” In your life, there will be people who question your faith, “How can God be the maker of all things, do you really believe all that nonsense?” Keep the faith and persevere through all the trials. The reward is unlike any other.