“But Sam, it’s just a football field.”

I heard it when SLF helped raise funds for the North Salem turf field several years ago.  I heard it again when we stepped up to help McKay High School do the same this year.

I’m not hostile to the question.  Pouring more than a million dollars into something that’s only used for football … utilized but a few times a year … I agree that wouldn’t be a wise or worthy investment.

But we’re not talking about a football field here.  We’re talking about honor.  Dignity.  Respect.  Pride.  Confidence.  We’re talking about school communities that are often disdained and disrespected … both from without and from within. Neither football, nor a football field, will turn that around.  But Belief will.

It was belief that built the North Salem field.  And the McKay field.  Belief which started inside the school; rooted in the hearts of principals and teachers; cultivated in students and families.  Belief that—despite social and financial challenges—anything is possible.  This kind of belief doesn’t come easy in some places.  At best, there’s a posture of “we’re doing pretty good with what we have.”  At worst, “we suck, just like everyone says.”  There’s nothing more heartbreaking—more unjust—than broken hope.  Or beaten belief.

Starting with Parrish Little League (where I coached for seven years) and extending to the Viking Band (where I was named the most obnoxiously-optimistic band dad ever), I was committed to building a ‘culture of confidence’ in any way I could.  Jennifer, too.   We were just two parents, but stubborn belief eventually spreads.  We found others who were islands of belief and pooled our optimism.  Little by little, the rewards came.  Not the trophies (they were encouraging), but the deep-seated belief that “we’re pretty dang good and can soar with the best.”

My colleague Kaleb Herring believes.  He was on the McKay turf team early.  His belief and pride in McKay is infectious—and his three young sons won’t be there for more than a decade!  It took a while to get traction … the fundraising is still under way: www.gofundme.com/McKayBoosterClub … but on Friday night, September 1, the McKay Royal Scots community gathered with pride to celebrate a football field.  Which also will be used for soccer, marching band, color guard, PE classes, graduations, and community events.  No longer a mud pit that gets used sparingly … but a tool for learning.  A symbol of pride and confidence.  A badge of Belief.