Pete had been my best player for some time now. Since he broke through to the first team, he was always my first choice whenever we have a game to play, and he had never disappointed in any game over the years.
What makes a coach happier than when a player shows your hard work with his playing? Pete was humble, hardworking, fearless, and exceptional and has a good arm.
I remember how I had first discovered him, a boy who didn’t even believe he could play any sport. It wasn’t easy convincing him to come to try out disc golfing, as it was not a common game among his peers. However, everybody like him who had gotten into the game had come to have absolute love and respect for it.
Disc golf is almost like ball golf. It can be played in parks and courses just like golf. Whoever pots in fewer tries wins the game. But unlike ball played with a stick, the hand is the tool used to propel the disc at the target.
Pete had tried to be a football player, and he had even had an audition in the Cravens Hills High School where he attended classes once or twice, but his skinny stature always dissuaded the coach from giving him a try. He had wanted to go pro and play in the NFL.
When his football dream crashed, he had tried to play basketball, but he got bullied out of it. I guess I had found him just at the right time before he gave up on all sports forever.
He was playing throw ball one late afternoon with his younger at the park one day while I was out with some friends and I was captivated by his ability to throw the ball at a perfect accuracy; the distance, and the speed that took a lot of focus to see as the ball traveled. I had never seen a 14-year-old throw as he had done, not even in baseball.
I called him later before I left the park and had a talk with him, and he told me just right there that he wasn’t interested. H said as far as he was concerned, it didn’t sound like a sport. I promised him that if he did not like the game after the first try, I would never bother him again.
His first day happened to be a game day. Just like in golf, a lot of people were gathered, cheering their best players and teams and singing praises of the best player.
Perhaps the chants had gotten to Pete, I couldn’t tell. My team was doing well. Edging close to the goal with each throw. But when Pete moment’s arrived, one of my players got injured in one of his throws.
So I put Pete in to complete the numbers of the game, but Pete was already throwing like a pro without knowing much about the game. I directed the crowd that was supporting us in chanting his name.
He told me that for the first time in his life he had found a place where he belonged. So he joined the team and started training for the championship. We had never won it before. But I believed that with our recruit we had a chance.
It took a while to inculcate in Pete all the rules of the game. But when he understood it perfectly, he began to play like a pro. And that was to our advantage in the championship.
The day of the game arrived. It was a game that we had to win to proceed to the next level. A lot of was out on the sidelines, cheering and screaming.
I had a pep talk with my team and sent them in.
“Nat, you take the first throw and go for pole hole 2. Make sure you are throwing with your arm bent in to make use of the wind, you know just like we did in training. Kyle, you take the second throw and go for pole hole 4. The wind current should change in a few hours so that we can go for pole hole 1. George, take the third throw, pole hole 3. Watch out for the trees and avoid the ditch.”
I had thought that by the time we were in the third throw our chances of winning would be known by then, so Pete won’t have much pressure in his first competitive match.
“Pete, you take the run home.”
Immediately I said that I knew I had given him a huge responsibility without meaning it. Our run home had been one of our problems over time. The pressure and the cheering at this time are so great that it gets under our players’ skin.
“You will be going for pole hole one. Wind might not have changed so that you will be throwing against the wind, I need your strong arm here.”
“Ok boss.” He nodded.
“I need you to be yourself here buddy. No pressure, it’s just a game, Ok?”
“OK,” he answered.
We started the game better than I expected. Nat made a good first throw that got everyone reeling. But the wind didn’t help second throw and the third hit a tree. He still managed to put in the disc a throw after our opponent.
Kyle and George were also good that it all came down to the fourth throw to determine who wins the game.
“Hey buddy, remember, no pressure, just go do your thing,” I said to Pete as he stepped in. Of course, there was pressure and lots of tension, but I wasn’t going to tell him that.
His first throw bounced off a tree and almost ended in a ditch. But we got lucky, our opponent’s disc also hit the tree and landed just almost the same place as Pete’s did.
I guess that gave him courage, because, how he did the rest of the throw was so amazing we found it hard to understand.
We won the first match he played for us, and we have been winning all our games since then.