The Little Engine That Could
By - Wynton Moore
From the looks of the title, you're probably guessing that this is about a struggle that evolved into success....you're right *wink. This is my story of how the game of football helped me to overcome self-doubt, low confidence and made me a CHAMPION!
Flag football for some is a way to stay active, socialize, a favorite hobby and/or a release from reality. I'd like to think it's a combination of all of the above for me. I've been playing now for over a decade. It first started out as a group of friends just coming together to run up and down, pretending to be Michael Vick (emphasis on pretend) and letting their inner child run free. Ten years later Flag has now emerged as one of the most, if not the most, organized amateur game league in the Bahamas.
For those of you that don’t know, football is THE ULTIMATE team sport. No one position can stand alone, support is always needed from another position. Example: on the offensive side, a wide receiver needs a quarterback to throw him the ball and that same quarterback that throws the ball needs his offensive line to block (protect) him long enough for him to deliver an accurate pass. I promise you, once executed properly, these plays are poetry in motion.
After a few years of being on the team, I emerged as one of the key players on the defensive side of the ball. I was also one of the youngest, if not the youngest, player on the team. That to me came with limitations in terms of offering opinions or having any say at all. An opportunity came for me to carve myself into a bigger role on our defense as a play caller when one of the senior defensive players suffered an injury. Prior to his injury, our team defense was kind of stagnant and in the middle of the pack defensively. I considered myself a student of the game and started to learn different defensive strategies and had pondered about leading our defensive unit.
I experimented in practice here and there with play calling and offering advice when necessary which for the most part worked. One of my older teammates, who I now see as a brother, pulled me aside and wanted to tell me about this brilliant idea that he had.
Him: "Yo I think you should handle our play calling for games." Me: "Bey you crazy? I can't call no plays." Him: "Bey you doing it now in practice and it's working." Me: "No one's gonna listen to me anyway. I'm the youngest dude on the team, no one wanna listen or take orders from a junior." Him: "Bey everyone already saying they like the way you call plays and you cool with everyone. Everyone respects you."
After that conversation I took his advice and took charge. with a little hesitant at first and a fair amount of bumps in the road, our team started to win more games and the defense became the strongest unit on the team. We eventually went on to win back to back league championships and a few tournaments. With the help of my teammates I started to feel more confident in my play calling abilities. I was also voted to be a team captain which only solidified that my teammates had that much confidence in me. To think that I got to a place where I was a youngster, leading men and gaining the most confidence was remarkable. It may seem menial to some but to me it meant THE WORLD!
If you're thinking all was going well and my confidence was at a sky high then you’re correct but what I didn’t know was that a few years later, my confidence would take another dive and self-doubt would be at it’s all time high. After a few years of success, our team would start to go through a transition that none of us saw coming. We learned that our Simba, our quarterback
(Coach Rodney Reckley is our Mufasa) would be leaving the country and our team.
Prior to him leaving, I would always throw the football around during warm ups and joke that if he put me in the game we could run trick plays because no one would ever expect me to throw the ball. That was said knowing that this would never happen and I was fine with that because I didn’t want to be the person that happens to throw an interception.
After getting the news that our quarterback would be leaving, we made the decision to groom someone for the position internally. My name came up as a candidate and I was approached. Without giving it much thought I agreed and the training began. I constantly asked myself, “Bey what the hell did you sign up for? You’re a defender not a quarterback”....that oh so familiar doubt started to rear its ugly head again.
I knew I had big shoes to fill because our quarterback wasn’t a slouch at all. He was the best quarterback in the league for many years and in my eyes the best of all time (the stats speak for themselves). I addressed the team and made them aware that I knew this. I told them “Hey it’s going to be a bumpy ride and things won’t always be pretty”. Some understood this and others thought it was going to be a smooth and seamless transition. I don’t know who sold them that dream but I knew who didn’t.
"I learned from Carson Wentz, a professional NFL quarterback for MY Philadelphia Eagles, that pressure is brought on internally. You do that to yourself, you make yourself nervous. This made so much sense and I adopted that attitude ever since so nerves and pressure on the field is not an issue".
So, as the new quarter back, the first game rolls around and we lost by 1 score then the second game came and we won (it wasn’t pretty but a win is a win!). And finally the third game rolls around and I want to say that we tied that game. So I finished the season with a 1-1-1 record (not bad for a rookie) and somehow by the grace of God we made it into the playoffs as the final seeded team. We eventually lost to the defending champions (who would go on to win their 2nd championship back to back) in the opening round of the playoffs.
Now it’s the off season and some players became disgruntled with the direction of the team and they wanted out. They wanted to jump off of what appeared to be a sinking ship…could you blame them? What they saw and thought was that "Wynton isn’t a QB and we’ll never win with him in that position". I won’t lie, a piece of me felt the same way. Playing that position just wasn’t easy and I honestly wanted to quit. My confidence was shot and I did not believe that I could do it. I had teammates that saw potential in me but I didn’t see it in myself. I heard, “Bey Wynton, we believe in you. Keep grinding, keep pushing…you gat this” but I thought to myself ‘ya’ll just saying that, you don’t really believe it’. I didn’t want to continue because I wasn’t good at it. If I’m not good at something I’m not going to embarrass myself.
My team didn’t seem to be moving in the direction of bringing someone else in and I naturally felt that I at least owed it to them to put in the work during the off season. So I worked and gradually started to see improvements….small improvements but progress nonetheless; if you can get 1% better every day that’s a start. As practice rolled around after the long off season, some of my teammates started to see the progress that I made and honestly, I was beginning to get quite comfortable as the QB.
The following season was filled with ups and downs, as most seasons are. I had my moments where it looked like I had things under control and then there were moments where I sucked but it's the game of football and it wont always be pretty. There were some games where I was benched for another guy and sometimes I felt like he was a better for the job. I'm a 'team first' kind of guy and always said that if he was, I would support him and the team 100% no matter what. The only uneasy feeling I had was that maybe the team would not see me as their leader anymore. But I used this feeling to stay aggressive in practice because this was still my team to lead. And as faith would have it, I got the job back and held that title for the remaining of the season.
We finished that season as the #2 seeded team and miraculously made it to the championship game. Could you believe it? Making it there alone was an accomplishment because some guys that have been playing the quarterback position for years never made it to that point but me, someone that had been playing for a year and a half made it there quickly. That was a testament to my team. I was surrounded by talent so it was hard for me to fail and we had a coach that had tremendous success in the league. I basically had one job to do…..DON'T SCREW UP!!
So it’s the day of the championship and it was game time. We were matched up against the defending champions who were going for history in the league to be three-peat champions. We were labeled the underdogs for that match up, a title that we wore proudly. Everyone had full confidence in one another to pull off the unthinkable. We stormed the field ready to take on the world and David did take down the mighty Goliath. We beat the defending champs! I can't even begin to describe the feeling I had. All of the hard work paid off and to the guy that had no confidence in himself, doubted his ability and questioned if he was making the right decision was named the MVP of the championship game! This was the type of thing you would see in a Hollywood movie!
I've since reflected on how far I've come as a player and how much I've grown with believing in myself and never doubting my abilities. Anything indeed is possible once you surround yourself with the right people and work hard at it consistently. I've since won another title this past season and was once again named Co-MVP of the game.
My confidence whenever I step onto the field is night and day compared to when I first started. I owe ALL of that to my teammates and close friends. They continuously pushed me and kept igniting the confidence in me that I needed. I thank God for blessing me with them and cannot thank them enough. Every kind and encouraging word did not go unnoticed. I've grown leaps and bounds since 2017 and what I've learned since then hasn't just helped me on the field but off as well. I use my life and struggles to help others that may be in the shoes that I once filled. With hard work and dedication the SKY IS THE LIMIT!
About The Author
Wynton Moore is a business professional in the insurance industry. He recently explored the uncharted waters of writing thus producing “The Little Engine That Could”. While writing, he’s learned that everyone has a life to share, a voice to be heard, and a story to be written.
When he isn’t writing, which is all the time, you might find him on stage or in front of a camera acting in local plays and commercials, watching football or playing flag football with his teammates who have become his brothers. He also has a special 'side-kick' named Lucy, his beloved dog and enjoys spending time with family and close friends.