It’s easy to think teen-age kids don’t care about the world. They walk about in unusually fitting clothing, texting constantly, wearing ear buds, communicating with their “friends” on Facebook … literally, in their own worlds.
For reassurance about the generation, we offer two examples.
Last month, before Thanksgiving, the investments company Edward Jones put on a food drive in the Northwest, hoping to generate 20,000 pounds of food for the needy at Interfaith Community Services.
It was a big success. ICS received something on the order of 25,461 pounds – that’s more than 12 tons of food – for its pantry.
Kids made the difference. Students at Ironwood Ridge High School collected some 4,000 pounds on their own. Yes, the prize was watermelon eegee’s for the winning class … but so what? Incentives that elevate social consciousness are worth offering. Students from Immaculate Heart, Canyon Del Oro, the elementary schools, Cub Scouts … young people pitched in to gather food, and to make a difference for needy people in our communities.
Yes, you might say, but that’s a brief, concentrated effort. What about the long haul? Can young people sustain their commitments to hard work, teamwork, self-improvement, discipline and one another for the duration?
Yes, they can. To illustrate, we offer high school sports in general, and high school football in particular.
This last weekend, the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawk and Canyon Del Oro Dorado football teams competed at Arizona’s highest level. The Nighthawks, winners of seven in a row, ran into a talented, deep – nearly twice as many players – squad from a valley powerhouse, Peoria Centennial. The locals lost the semifinal game, 38-28, but they fought like the dickens, came back from a 14-point deficit to tie, and represented themselves with class and determination throughout.
CDO, the defending state champion, riding a 27-game win streak, could not defend its title. The green and gold lost to another powerhouse, Scottsdale Saguaro, in a very competitive, 41-34 state 4A-I finale decided in the final minutes.
If anyone doubted the caring and commitment of young people, they might have stuck around after the final whistles.
This writer watched the Nighthawks in Phoenix. Coach Matt Johnson asked his seniors to line up on the goal line, and the underclassmen walked toward them, thanking each senior individually for years of contribution to a rising football program. There were a lot of tears streaming, without a lick of self-consciousness. This was, after all, real, honest, hard-earned pain, born of long-ago days in weight rooms, and in summer’s heat, running “gassers,” sacrificing for a worthy purpose, a greater good. You bet they cared. Alas, they’d fallen a game short.
When the whole team gathered in a circle, and yelled “1-2-3 ‘Hawks,” the assembled audience of parents, family, friends and cheerleaders gave them warm applause. It all gave you the shakes.
The same scene unfolded at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday, when CDO saw its dream of a repeat fall short. It was not for lack of trying, nor for lack of dedication, of exertion, of want. And, in the end, they lost a game, that’s all. Together, and collectively, they’ve gained so much more, friendships that can last lifetimes, memories that won’t fade, and the recognition of just how hard it is to succeed. Nobody owes you nuthin’. You’ve got to earn it.
We must note the end of one individual’s remarkable high school football career. Ka’Deem Carey leaves CDO having amassed more than 5,000 yards rushing and 82 —82! – career touchdowns. We don’t know Ka’Deem as an individual. We know him as an electric football player, a very rare combination of strength, speed, vision, quickness and determination. Worth the price of admission, by himself … but he never did it by himself. Football is the ultimate team game, and Ka’Deem’s teammates elevated his play just as he dazzled everyone else.
Thank you, Ka’Deem, for genuine thrills. Continued success on the gridiron.
And thank you, young athletes and young people, for reassuring the curmudgeonly among us that the future is not lost on the generations coming of age.