“If you work hard, you will be rewarded. It’s as simple as that.”
Thirteen words that began every football season I played under Coach Ron Brodnicki to explain his philosophies about both football and life. Thirteen words that resonate with me to this day.
Coach Brodnicki began his tenure at Canisius High School as the head coach of the varsity football team with a simple, but not easy, mission – to turn around the fortunes of a team that had been a perennial laughingstock. A tall task to be certain, but he arrived armed with the knowledge that a strong work ethic would be the first key to bringing success to the moribund football program.
I, on the other hand, arrived with a hefty dose of ego, fully expecting to be an instant superstar. It didn’t take very long for reality to set in; I was among the least talented players on the team. In fact, I became so frustrated that I was on the verge of quitting. I approached Coach Brodnicki after practice to inform him of my decision. He let me speak my piece, and sat back in his chair for a moment. I squirmed in my chair, uncomfortable with the silence.
“Son,” he said softly, “your timing is intriguing, because I was going to be pulling you and a few others aside after practice today.”
It became obvious to me that I wasn’t going to have to quit – I was about to be cut from the team.
He continued, “You – along with several others – aren’t quite good enough to play football at this level right now.”
Yep. It was coming.
“But I don’t believe in cutting players from the team. I feel like every player deserves the opportunity to make an impact on the team in some way, if they truly want to. Now I won’t harbor any disrespect if you decide to quit – I can’t make any promises to you about playing time, and standing on the sidelines isn’t everybody’s idea of a great football experience. But as I always say, if you work hard, you will be rewarded. Reward might come in the form of helping your teammates improve, or perhaps it comes in the form of your own improvement. At the very least, you’ll have the knowledge that you didn’t give up – you continued to give everything you had toward achieving what you want.”
I sat silent for a moment, absorbing what Coach Brodnicki had said. He was right, of course. Quitting wasn’t the answer. The answer was to adopt his philosophy – work hard, and be rewarded.
“I’ll see you at practice tomorrow, Coach,” I replied. “And every day – thank you for the wake up call.”
I never did become a superstar. But to this day, I follow the tenet that hard work will be rewarded – and as Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself extremely thankful for the critical lessons I learned from Coach Brodnicki.