Today’s post is a guest post from Luke Feldbrugge, I read this story and was very touched by the story of how he was influenced as a young man. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
Brief Bio: Luke Feldbrugge (pen name Luke Allen) is the founder of People Inspire People. He’s a remarried, father of two, and a marketing professional of 12+ years who invites people into the arena of inspiration to share their stories of positive beliefs and actions taken through the practice of the “Give and Receive” cycle.
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” – Albert Schwitzer
My father passed away of a heart attack when I was 13.
I was a young teen trying to figure out the world and where I fit in. Then one day I woke up and my father, my male role model, was gone. The world stopped and my life was instantly rewritten, knowing he wouldn’t be there anymore.
Since then, I have always wondered if he is proud of me. If he were here, would he offer praise for my effort and achievement? What fatherly advice would he offer during times of trial and error? His approval and guidance is something I need to believe in, without actual recognition. Validation of those beliefs that were offered by other men, whether they were family, friends, men I admired, looked up to or modeled after became very important moments of character development for me.
One particular time period was during my senior year in high school, and it was football season. I started for the varsity team my junior and senior year on the offensive line, weighing in at 175 pounds. I was one of the smallest offensive linemen in our conference. I never took the time to look it up, but I really didn’t need to. During games, I would always align in front of a bigger player.
I know there were quite a few people who questioned why a little guy like me would be put in that role, including some of my coaches and teammates. I believe there were two main reasons why I was given the opportunity. One, there were not many people who wanted to play on the no glamour, no glory offensive line. But, I did. Growing up, I was never the confident kid who wanted the limelight.
I was never the aggressive kid who wanted to hit people. I was never the fast kid. But, I was one of the “huskier” kids. So, from the flag football days up through my varsity football days, I played different positions on the offensive line. The second reason was Coach Larson. He was the varsity offensive line coach.
Granted, his talent pool of offensive linemen was limited, so it may have been awarded to me by default. But, regardless of the reasons, he chose me to start on the line. To me, it was validation of my effort. He gave me the chance, the challenge to play, to start, to contribute and to be a leader. It made me want to work harder and accomplish more. He knew I didn’t have the physical tools, but I believe he chose to roll the dice on my work ethic and heart.
One day, Coach Larson decided to teach all of us a lesson and show me why I was placed in my role. We were watching game film following a loss. It was a heartbreaking loss and the team was down during our film session. During these sessions, the coaches, and sometimes the players would throw out comments.
This week there wasn’t the same feel, the same energy, and the comments that came up were primarily about mistakes. Many of them were about how we quit on assignments. Then out of the blue, during one of our offensive re-plays, Coach Larson let out a bellowing, “Look at Feldbrugge taking that guy out of the play! Hitting him at the knees, driving his legs. That big guy couldn’t help but put his hands down to try and push him off. Just like we practiced. That’s the effort I like to see, Feldbrugge. That’s the kind of effort we need from every player, on every play.”
To give you an idea of what I was getting praised for, imagine times when a child or pet decides to stop immediately in front of you as your walking forward, and the only hope of not falling down is to put your hands down to move them or pick them up. In this instance, I was the child or pet in the way of a much larger player, but they couldn’t move me or pick me up.
I was a scrapper. Coach flat out told me I wasn’t big enough, so I had to be smarter and faster. First, I’d hit them at the knees. When they got wise to that and started going lower, they’d already be half way down, so I’d push them down and keep them down. Coach Larson played the hand he was given. He used smart strategies and coached technical discipline.
However, if I’m honest, I didn’t like getting called out in front of the team. I didn’t like the limelight placed on me during a disappointing film session. But in looking back, it did feel good to have my effort recognized by Coach Larson. The coach made it quite clear what he cared about by emphasizing the successful execution of my responsibilities and my non-stop effort during the play. It made everybody take notice, and that day we all realized nobody would quit on this team again.
After that loss, we went on to play some great teams and win some big games. For a time we were ranked in the states top 10 in our class. Something you need to understand is, the year prior, our team didn’t win a single game. Not one game. Needless to say, it was quite the turn around year. The entire town caught the fever. There was new energy, and of course as a player, it was fun to ride the wave of success.
Then one day I got sick. I was exhausted, run down, urinating every 20 minutes, and I was losing weight fast. During practice drills I didn’t drink water because I would need to piss. There were times when I had to ask my coach to use the bathroom during practice. Skipping out on drills was not acceptable.
It was embarrassing to say I had to go to the bathroom, so I can only imagine what Coach Larson and my line mates were thinking. It felt like I was letting my teammates down. There were times they would ask why the hell I was missing drills. Sometimes, I actually hid behind the shed to piss because I couldn’t hold it anymore. At least that way I didn’t have to make the trip inside the school and miss out on additional drills.
I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t have a fever. I wasn’t puking. I could go through the motions, but I was so tired and weak.
That week we had a game, and I was struggling during warm up drills. I was so weak I could barely run. Game time came and the other team kicked off. I was headed to the sideline to block someone when I was blind-sided by an opponent. It was a great block, clean and well executed. I must have flown six feet through the air before I hit the ground.
I could barely get up. When I made it to my feet, I walked straight to Coach Larson and said, “Coach, I can’t play. I will hurt the team more than I will help tonight. You gotta play Greg. I gotta sit this one.” He did what he had to do and took me out. I can only imagine what was running through his head and the heads of my teammates. Remember, every team member realized during our film session we would never quit on this team again.
The praise I received that day for my effort played a role in that unwritten promise. And, here I was quitting on the team. I know I let my coach and my team down. But I also knew, given how I felt, it was the right thing to do.
That weekend, I was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. I had lost 20 lbs. in two weeks. I was down to 155 lbs. The doctor told me I was lucky not to be in a coma because my blood sugar had reached a level of 789. Normal levels are between 60-180. Because of the disease, I missed the last three football games of my senior year.
However, my hospital stay led to one of the most impactful experiences of my life. While in the hospital and before the next game, I had a visitor show up to my room. It was Coach Larson. My mom was with me at the time, but Coach Larson was my first non-family visitor.
He came alone, but he made sure to acknowledge that other members of the team would be stopping by later in the day. Honestly, I do not remember what he said. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was a man I looked up to and admired took time to stop by, stand by me, put a hand on my shoulder and wish me well during one of life’s challenges.
I still like to think he said, “Everything is OK. Continue to be strong.” I cannot express what his visit meant to me, and still means to me today.
Everything is OK. Continue to be strong. Words I try to live by each day.
My life changed when my father passed away. But, many men have given me moments of their lives, and have helped me become who I am today. They say hindsight is 20/20, as it seems things make more sense long after they happen.
I’ve realized some things. Things I didn’t really recognize during this time in my life. How my confidence began to grow when Coach Larson gave me the opportunity to play football as a starting offensive lineman. How he showed me how to play smart, with heart, and how far that can take you. How he led with great vision, acknowledgement of challenges and the know-how to reach a viable solution.
But, his most important attribute was, he believed in his players. He stood by his players. That allowed his players to believe in him, and themselves, and to stand by their teammates through thick and thin. He coached high school kids, but when his time was up with them, he had helped to build strong character in young men.
Coach Larson, if you’re reading this, thank you for noticing me. Thank you for caring, for believing, for giving me a chance, for challenging me to be better and for recognizing my effort. I didn’t have a father to lean on during those days, but my father sent me a great man like you to look up to.
Every man needs men like you in their life. I am grateful to have been given the time I received.
I will always respect you and admire you. You inspired me. I will use what I’ve learned and share it with as many as I am able.
Everyone, find your Coach Larson. Listen, learn and do. Be grateful for what they offer.
If you enjoyed Lukes’ post, you can find more at www.peopleinspirepeople.com