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BALL FIVE: Dear seniors: becoming great is up to you

I’m not big on nepotism, and my son got to be on the front page of sports last week, but hey, a good picture is a good picture, so Michael gets to grace the sports page of the Mobridge Tribune two weeks in a row.
I hope that’s a pretty good segue into the rest of this column. Because it is for Michael and rest of the senior on the Tiger football team.
Dear Seniors:
I’ve know most of you since you were little boys starting your first day of school, some even longer. I know how long you have aspired to attain success at the sports you play. You are coming off what some would call a devastating loss to Aberdeen Roncalli. It came when you thought you were finally going to get the better of the Cavaliers. It’s a tough loss, but it’s just a loss. You have five regular season and who knows how many postseason games left. I know you all dream of playing the final game in the DakotaDome.
It is time to start taking some necessary steps that you, the seniors, the leaders of this team, must make if that dream is going to have a chance to come to fruition.
You, as individuals and a group, have to take ownership of this team. You have to lead your teammates every step of the way. Your goals will not be attained unless you take ownership of the responsibility of trying to become a great team. You are a good team with a chance to become a very good team right now. But until you take ownership of the dedication it will take to expect excellence from yourself and your teammates, until you decide that it is up to you to create the destiny you aspire, it cannot happen.
The Tigers will not become great because the coaches coach better, or the juniors play better, or the sophomores step up. The Tigers can only become a great team because you lead them.
It has to start in practice. It is time to starting practicing even harder every day than you do now. You have to be on the field for every single play, demanding perfection from yourself and then everyone around you. When it comes time for conditioning, run like your hair is on fire every single gasser. Do you know why you sprint until you could puke on Tuesday and Wednesday, so you never get too tired on Friday. So you can be on the field for every single important play during the game. When you are working that hard, when you are competing against each other to see who can practice the hardest, you are leaders who are teaching the rest of your team how to work hard enough to become as good as they can be, this year with you and in the following years.
Sometimes it is a little thing you may not even think about. Remember on Friday when you scored the go-ahead touchdown? On the ensuing kickoff, Aberdeen returned the ball all they way to your 38-yard line to set up the game-winning drive. Could the Cavaliers have had that long kick return if we had a kickoff team full of starters out there, making sure that didn’t happen? Making that one sacrifice, skipping that one minute of rest, taking that one bit of ownership of your destiny, might have changed the outcome of the game.
Your goal should be to be in on every offensive, defensive and special teams play of the game. At least every one that is a deciding factor in the outcome of the game.
That is how bad you are going to have to want it, if you are going to get it. There is not one of you who should need a breather at any time the rest of your high school football career. There will be plenty of time for rest when the game is done.
When you take ownership of the responsibility of making the Tigers as good as they can be, everyone else around you will play with more confidence. When you never want to come off the field, no one on the sideline will feel doubt during the most crucial of circumstances.
You are the seniors of the Mobridge-Pollock Tigers football team.
This is your dream. Go make it a reality.