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I have experienced the scene so many times that all recollections of the event blend together into a single, unforgettable memory. The seasoned, old general, with an eye for perfection, conducted his troops, me included, through daily, often mundane exercises. Any man who lost focus or made a mistake was so sternly reminded that even the slightest of errors could spell disaster, not just for the recipient of the general’s ire, but also for the other men who were counting on him.
In reality, my memory pertains not to war, but rather football practice. The general, Coach Walter Barr, was preparing us for our weekly game, not an international conflict. Though the stakes involved in football and war are not comparable, the values and ideals needed to reach victory are almost identical, and Coach Barr constantly reminded us of this fact. Traits that Coach Barr demanded, such as respect, accountability, and hard work are necessary for success in regards to anything. Coach Barr did more than build a winning football team; he changed me into a young man ready for life and the real world.
Saying I played for Coach Barr is a gross understatement. A more true reflection is to say I committed to myself him, his system, and his values. Before I met Coach Barr, I had no concept of giving everything for a cause. After listening to him speak and participating in off-season conditioning, I decided to stick with the team, regardless of the situation. However, the first week of practice greatly challenged my assertion. Practice lasted eight hours, and the temperature and humidity combined to create a vast, blanketing heat which made any task seem several times tougher. To make matters worse, I was a sophomore competing against seniors who were much more experienced and physically mature. In addition to the demands during practice, it was expected that we spend our own time memorizing plays and formations. I had no hope of seeing the varsity playing field. Questions began to arise in my mind over whether my investments were worth the returns. The defining event of this period of uncertainty came when several players quit the team. Calling the remaining players together shortly after it occurred, Coach Barr chastised the quitting players for abandoning their peers. His words triggered an immediate reaction. At that moment, I decided I wouldn’t be a quitter, and I have never looked back. As a result of Coach Barr and his arduous practices, I feel I can accomplish anything, and there is no struggle that I cannot overcome.
Prior to Coach Barr’s influence, I would characterize myself as tentative. Instead of being proactive and creating opportunities for myself, I waited for special chances to fall to me and allowed my natural skills to carry me. Coach Barr quickly taught me that this attitude will not generate success, as competition forces us to create our own opportunities, whether it is during a football game or in life. Since I acquired a “go-getter” attitude, I have experienced much more than I would have with my previous demeanor. The most tangible example of this is my current internship with Susquehanna Technologies, a company that sells software solutions. Over the summer, I researched the company, contacted the president, and ultimately secured the internship. Before my experience with Coach Barr, I likely would have merely yearned for an opportunity such as this instead of making it happen.
One of the final, and perhaps most important, lessons I learned because of Coach Barr deals with personal growth. Before my senior season, Coach Barr retired, which was hard to fathom, as he had been involved in many aspects of my high school life. At his retirement announcement, he told us that he will be with us in spirit and to remember his teachings, as they are more important than him personally. After pondering this statement and reflecting upon all my time with Coach Barr, I realized that it is always necessary to be prepared for change. Coach Barr was an excellent leader and coach, but he cannot always be there to guide me, which is why I have to be my own person. This same sentiment applies to college and moving away from others who greatly influence me, such as my parents. As I prepare for the most major change in my life so far, I am thankful for Coach Barr and all that he has taught me. Under the General’s watch, I transformed from an unsure freshman to a confident young man, ready to tackle the challenges of college life.
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