I still remember a quote from my freshman year in English class when I read To Kill a Mockingbird, a distinct line where the author defines courage. Courage, she says, is “when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do” (Harper Lee). And to be honest, I couldn’t tell you much about the plot of that book anymore, but that quote has stuck with me ever since.
When I was approached to write about daring greatly and Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “The Man in the Arena”, I had never even heard of it. After reading the speech, however, I could sum it up into one word: courage.
I play quarterback on the varsity football team, and because I live in the great state of Texas, that means close to 10,000 people will come to watch the Cougars secure a win on any given night. But no matter how close the fans sit, there will always be some things that they never see. They watch a quarterback escape pressure and launch a bomb into the end zone for an exciting touchdown, but they don't see him running sprints every day, so he can outrun the monsters that who want to take his head, or lifting weights to transform his body from a thin shell to a blast of muscle capable of withstanding hits and driving back defenders. They don’t see the hours and hours he spent practicing the exact steps he took to escape the pressure, and the hours and hours he practiced putting the ball in that exact same place. So, sometimes, when a player is having a bad game, it’s easy to criticize him when you don’t know what he has been through just to get to that point. Players are not winners based on the score of the game, they are winners based on their efforts before the game, preparing and improving themselves on a daily basis in 100 degree weather while everyone else is chilling at Bahama Mama’s.
To the critics I ask, would you be willing to put in that work? The answer to that would of course be “no”, because otherwise they would respect the player’s efforts. They would understand that the mistakes a player makes are results of him giving his full effort, that because he has invested so much in the game, he is not afraid to dare for greatness, dare to make a deep throw and hold his head high if it is intercepted. Some people wonder what it takes to play football. Talent? Special training? Speed? Strength? For me football only requires one thing, courage. It is in our willingness to take a chance at success without fear of the outcome that lies our potential. I have personally had to overcome several obstacles when it comes to football. I’m not very tall, especially for a quarterback, and many people want to count me out just because of my size. Additionally, I tore a ligament in my foot that left me unable to walk for three months. But in those three months, I learned that whether you crawl, walk, run, or use a scooter to get around, if you keep moving forward, you will find success.
I am thankful that Cinco Ranch High School has provided me with opportunities to dare for greatness. Sure, there have been downsides and rough days, but that’s just a part of life. I would almost think there is something wrong with me if I didn't have an off day every once in a while. I was asked a week ago about how high school has impacted me. I was stuck, I had never really thought about it until then. I knew what I had done, but I had never taken a step back to see how it affected me. I’ve had a comprehensive high school experience, seeing the sides of fine arts, sports, academics, student leadership, and social life. I’ve had the chance to be in the drumline, meet new people, make a fool of myself dancing on stage, experience Friday Night Lights in real life, go to parties, work with teachers to understand difficult concepts, and venture out into new things that changed my perspective and developed my personality. I was never quite sure what to expect from high school and what it could offer me. Looking back on it, I’m glad I challenged myself, it made me mentally tough. I figured out who I am, and who my friends are; there are some really special people in this school, and frankly, after all the novelty of iPads and smart boards wears away, it’s the people that make a school special.
I have a sense of belonging, Cinco Ranch is a part of who I am now. And I have a pride for my school that I never expected to have going into it all. The CPOE runs high in this one for sure. If there is one thing I wish I would do more of in high school, it is knowing when to have fun and take a break from my rigorous studies, which, for me, is every bit as daring as running for Vice President. In the end, I will not remember the questions on my Calculus worksheet, but I will remember the experiences I have with my friends and classmates. I asked some friends if there was anything they wished they had dared to do in their time at Cinco. There was a unanimous resentment for not being more involved during their freshman and sophomore years. They reminded me of the man in the arena. When you walk into high school, there’s so much noise, so many critics, you’re afraid to branch out and do anything. It’s a similar experience walking out onto a football field. Before the kickoff, you hear the band playing Tomahawk music and the fans cheering at the top of their lungs, and it’s not until you’re a couple of drives into the game that all of the distractions around you disappear. As underclassmen, we listen to the crowd too much. We fail to realize that the critics only have power if we give them attention. But the longer we stay in the arena, the longer we’ve been in school, the further we progress in life, we learn to zone out the noise and have the courage to dare to do great things for ourselves.
Felix Luongo, Senior