Game night: Life is a battle, games are fun

Published 9:14 am Thursday, August 30, 2012

Column: Max Jeffrey, Coach’s Corner

Max Jeffrey

Last year at this time I was preparing for my first game as head coach of the Albert Lea Tiger football team. This meant I needed to give my first pregame speech to try and inspire the young men on our team to play a game. I was nervous and not exactly sure how to address the team.

On game day, teachers at ALHS were saying “good luck” and “give them a battle tonight.”

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That second phrase stuck with me – “give them a battle.” I’ve heard and actually used that phrase before in my previous years of coaching football. But for me, the word “battle” has a totally different meaning.

In April of 2011, one of my best friends, my brother, David, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was devastating for his wife and three kids. I was devastated as well. My brother, the guy I looked up to, the one who was there for me, was suddenly in a “battle” for his life.

On my brother’s drive home from the doctor, he told his wife he was “in it to win it.” My brother was in a battle.  Two weeks later he headed to the University of Minnesota Hospitals where his team of doctors performed surgery to remove the cancerous tumors from his pancreas. I sat in the waiting room for hours while surgery was performed wearing my Team Jeffrey shirt and my purple cancer bracelet. Surgery went well with few complications.

My brother battled.  He had his bad days with his chemo treatments and he would have some good days. A benefit was held for my brother, and I couldn’t believe the outpouring of support for him. My brother touched many people and they were giving back. Life was tough but the support that he had, and still has, is tremendous.

I’m happy to say that currently my brother is cancer free. It’s something to celebrate on a daily basis. His family, his team of doctors and the support of friends helped him through his life battle.” I’m proud of him and always will be.

As I addressed the team for my first time as head coach I talked to them about the word battle and the word game. I expressed my feelings as I held up my left wrist to show them my purple cancer bracelet and explained that my brother was in a battle, a battle for his life. I expressed that football is a game and you should have fun playing it.

It’s important for our players to see the big picture, to understand that we are playing a game and it should be fun. We still demand they give their best effort and play to the best of their ability. We demand they never quit and always play hard. We ask that our players be enthusiastic, unselfish, have courage, do their assignment and treat people right.

I think we need perspective when it comes to high school athletics.  Our student athletes are not taking home a paycheck at the end of their game or season.  Our student athletes are participating in a game for the love of the sport.  Our student-athletes are given opportunities and many are seizing the moments.

I know our community will stand behind them and applaud them for their efforts.

Please support all of our Tiger athletes as we begin to ramp up our fall sports. Your support and encouragement in their games will create lasting memories for them and our teams.


Max Jeffrey is the head football coach at Albert Lea High School. A column from an area coach will appear in the Tribune throughout the fall season.