This is a memory that will never be forgotten. A life changing experience.
By Randy Traeger
Things were going real well for the Kennedy Trojan football team in 2010, right up until our State Championship semi-final game against Gold Beach. Gold Beach did a great job of defending us, they were fired up to avenge an earlier season loss, and with a couple key injuries to our players, the perfect storm ended our 2010 campaign. I consoled our players, coaches, and fans, and then commenced a week long “pity party”.
It wasn’t until our awards ceremony about a week later, that a couple of our players put the season back into proper perspective for me.
The ceremony was well attended and filled with the usual season ending spirit that I have grown accustomed to over my 31 year coaching career. What I wasn’t prepared for however, was what happened to our two most coveted awards, the Most Inspirational and Most Valuable player awards.
The recipient of the Most Inspirational Player award, accepted the award, and then proceeded to give a short speech reciting back one of the main themes that we coaches had been preaching to the players all season long: “That which is not given…is lost”. He then proceeded to give away his trophy to another senior player who pretty much ”rode the pines” his entire football career. As he gave the trophy away, he talked about how the other player’s selflessness had been an inspiration to the whole team. I know there were tears in a lot of eyes just then.
My lesson in humility wasn’t over yet. My own son, a senior on the team, was deservedly given the team’s Most Valuable Player award. He had amassed 1868 yards of offense and scored 194 points this season. A few days later, I came to find out that he had given his trophy away to the young son of our Athletic Trainer. The boys name is Mintesnot and he has an amazing story.
It had always been the family’s plan that they would adopt two children. They received a phone call from Adoption Advocates International (AAI) in February 2009 letting them know that arrangements had been approved to adopt a girl, Kalkidan (13) and a boy Mintesnot (8), both from Ethiopia. Kalkidan had spent more than half of her life in an orphanage. They had the opportunity to meet her biological mother, who was ill. Since her mother was still alive, they were able to learn a lot about her medical and health history, so there were no surprises and she had very few emotional scars. However, Mintesnot had no file since he was considered abandoned and came from a very poor region in Ethiopia. They have recently discovered that Mintesnot had witnessed his sister being shot and killed, had his father abandon the family, and tried to wake his mother up one morning to later realize she was dead. Mintesnot literally means "What could God not do?" and it was the name assigned to him by the police officer who found him wandering the streets in Shashemene, Ethiopia. Immediately after arriving in Ethiopia, they noticed that Mintesnot had endured significant trauma. He had severe burn scars on his head, the left side of his face and five different burn scars on his neck and shoulders that were more than four square inches in size. There were also extensive cuts and knife marks on the back of his neck and down his legs.
In the safety of his new American home, Mintesnot let down his guard and began processing his grief. He has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Attachment Disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Life at their home has been very challenging because Mintesnot started re-living his trauma and lacks the emotional skills to describe his grief and struggles to remember the many aspects of his trauma. Many of his episodes have been quite violent and required physically restraining Mintesnot for up to 90 minutes at a time, happening about 2-3 times per month. Luckily, the family has been blessed with an amazing team of medical professionals and community organizations to help facilitate the healing process for Mintesnot. Some of the most significant improvements in his healing process have been the direct result of the relationships he built this year with players on our Kennedy football team. A major turning point in Mintesnot’s emotional healing was our Gold Beach semifinal football loss. Several Kennedy football players and coaches helped Mintesnot by sharing their grief with him that evening. They let him know that while the present was painful, that everything would be all right it we took care of each other like family. It was the first time Mintesnot didn't disassociate from a loss and/or his grief and actually remained mentally present. This was a big step for him. Since that night they have only needed to restrain Mintesnot one time and it was a minor episode.
This is the photo that our Athletic Trainer sent me of Mintesnot sleeping with the 2010 Kennedy Football Most Valuable Player trophy. The rumor is that he sleeps with it every night.
Now I have been coaching a long time and have given out literally hundreds of awards, but I have never been more emotionally moved than with what became of these two pieces of plastic and metal. We all work so hard to get some “hardware”. Team awards, league awards, all state awards, state championship trophies, what great significance we place on them! These trophies pale in the light of spiritual achievements by your players, the actions of Virtue that happened every day on your team that go noticed or un-noticed. There is the award! Not some cheap piece of plastic and wood destined to collect dust on some forgotten shelf!
I am truly humbled by the act of these two young men on our football team. They have reminded me that being a man isn’t about money, athletic ability, fancy cars, or houses, the conquest of women……or trophies. It’s about having great relationships and lovingly serving parents, family, friends, teammates, teachers, coaches,….and a little orphan boy from Ethiopia.
That which is not given….is lost.