The fifteen-ounce sphere of cowhide sailed through the air, and after finding it’s chosen target the football landed softly against the callused hands of tight-end, Kip Silver, only for it to fall from his grasp and bounce off the green grass below. “SILVER!” High school Coach, Tucker Palsey, screamed out as he watched the ball fall from his player’s hands, and as he stormed across the field toward Kip, he never stopped shouting, “YOU EVER CAUGHT A GOD DAMNED THING IN YOUR LIFE!? I THOUGHT YOU HAD HANDS!? DIDN’T YOU SAY YOU HAD HANDS!? I WAS TOLD YOU HAD HANDS!”
Kip stared blankly at the small pudgy man as he sped toward him, and he wondered silently what he should do? Kip’s first thought was to bend down and pick up the football, but he was afraid that should he make any movement at all Coach Palsey would physically attack him. Kip had come from a life of abuse and it wasn’t uncommon for him to take a licking for even the smallest of transgressions, and so it was in this very moment that Kip believed he was about to receive the same treatment he had been given for most of his life – punishment.
“Are you deaf Silver!?” Coach Palsey demanded as he finally came within inches of Kip’s face. Kip shook his head. “So, what then!?” Coach Palsey asked as he got as close to Kip as he possibly could, “You’re just some kind of mute!? Can’t speak!?”
“I ca-ca-can,” Silver forced out, “S-s-speak.”
“Pick up that ball! Why’re you just staring at me if you can understand what I’m saying!?” Kip immediately bent down and picked the ball up and went to hand it to the Coach Palsey, “What’s that for!?” Coach asked him with a condescending tone, “Do I look like a football player to you!?”
Kip shook his head, “No.”
“You’re God damn right I’m not a player! I’m a coach! Do you know why they hired me to coach this team?”
Kip shook his head again, “No.”
“Big surprise! You don’t know much, do you Silver!?”
“And that’s exactly why they hired me, to teach people like you about this God given game. Why!? Because like you said, you know nothing! You know what the only thing you know how to do is!?”
Kip shrugged, “What?”
“Run! That’s all I’ve seen from you Silver, you can run! But that’s about it, so we’re going to teach you to catch. Give me that ball!” Coach Palsey grabbed the football from Kip’s hand, “What are you doing still standing here!?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do what you do best Silver, and run! RUN!”
Kip looked around at his teammates, all of them were watching, and with this realization Kip quickly became embarrassed, “Right now?” He asked his Coach with a tone of confusion.
“Did I st-st-stutter!? When else stupid!? Right now!” Kip did as he was told and began to run away from the team, and as he did Coach Palsey turned back to the watchful eye of his players, “Grab a ball! Every one of you! Right now!” The team frantically followed the order with each player quickly finding a football, Coach Palsey turned back in the direction of Kip Silver, who was now about thirty yards away from the group, “SILVER!” Coach yelled at him, “PIVOT!”
Coach Palsey’s voice was so loud and distinguishable the only way Kip wouldn’t have heard him was if he was purposely ignoring the man, and so when he heard the instruction from his Coach come loud and clear he did just as he was instructed and pivoted, changing his route and heading in a horizontal line in front of the group. The Coach turned back toward the high school players, all of them holding a football, “Hit him!” Coach Palsey yelled at the group and almost in unison more than thirty footballs were thrown into the sky, all headed in the direction of Kip Silver, “CATCH!” The Coach screamed in Kip’s direction and the entire group watched as Kip looked up and over at the footballs headed in his direction. The Coach turned back to the group of players, “If he can’t catch a single ball, he’s off the team, don’t think any one of you won’t escape the same treatment! We don’t accept anything less than exceptional around here, you got me!?”
The entire group of players responded in unison, “WE GOT YOU SIR!”
Coach Palsey whipped back around in Kip’s direction just in time to watch as several footballs landed on the green grass surrounding him. Thirty yards away Kip kept his cool as he watched the footballs fall from the sky as he kept focus on a single ball, letting the other drop all around him with no effort to reach for them at all. The single ball that Kip had been focused on nearly reached him before it was redirected by another thrown ball. Kip’s eyes bulged as he watched the football jut away from him and he leaped in the air to catch it, his hands clasped over the ball and gripped onto it tightly, keeping it in his hands as he smacked against the ground and rolled to a stop.
Kip held the ball up in the air as he laid on the ground, catching his breath and hearing nothing from the group other than silence. What did he expect, applause? Sure enough, he got just that.
CLAP CLAP CLAP
The slow clap came from a single set of hands, Coach Palsey’s, “Well, well, well,” he could hear Palsey say as he goaded him from a distance, “I guess you can catch!” Coach Palsey turned away from Kip’s direction to face the team once again, “See all those balls on the ground out there? Silver’s going to catch every single of them, you hear me!?”
“YES SIR!” The group yelled back
“Who’s going to throw them for him?!”
“WE ARE SIR!”
“Every single ball! He catches every single of them before one of you leaves this field, you got me!?”
“WE GOT YOU SIR!”
“I’ll be watching, and if I see any one of you behave like Silver did five minutes ago, you’re all off this team! NOW MOVE!” Coach Palsey stormed off the field before he turned back to watch the group of players police themselves, and one by one they lined up, waiting for their turn to throw a ball at Kip Silver. Coach Palsey paid little attention to his group, it was Silver he was focused on and he was pleased at the fact that Silver had gone ahead with the drill without complaint. Coach Palsey had been told a lot of things about Silver, and one of them wasn’t the fact that he was a good listener. However, it was in this moment that Coach Palsey saw true potential in Kip, and the fact that Kip had listened without much complaint told Coach Palsey that the kid was coachable, “You’ll be a player,” Coach Palsey muttered to himself as he watched Kip from a distance, “Even if I have to force you.”