Minnesota Gopher Football Visits a Cemetery Each Year, and We Love the Reason Why
A video of Minnesota Golden Gophers football team's head coach P.J. Fleck sharing why he takes his team to Fort Snelling National Cemetery each year is earning plaudits from online.
I grew up playing sports. In elementary school I tried my hand (or feet) at soccer, baseball and basketball. By junior high my sport of choice was soccer, though I did get roped into one humiliating season of high school basketball as a bench warmer. From elementary school through high school I had the privilege of playing for a number of different coaches including -- at one point -- my dad. Throughout the course of my academic career, coaches were significant figures in my life. I respected and appreciated them. I valued their praise and learned to graciously accept their constructive criticism. In some cases, they became mentor figures to me; last year, when my soccer coach of seven years was killed in a car crash, I felt his loss in my soul even though I hadn't seen him in over a decade. While anybody can be a coach, I believe it takes special qualities beyond a desire to win to be a great coach. The Minnesota Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck, I believe, is a great coach.
On Monday, August 23 sports reporter Daniel House shared a video to Twitter of Fleck in an interview. "The #Gophers always make an annual trip to Fort Snelling National Cemetery," the tweet's caption read. "What does the team learn from that experience?" Explaining why be brings the football team to the cemetery each year, Fleck says on camera,
No matter what your views and beliefs are in our society, we can all go there and show our respects and pay our respects for the people who fought for our country, to allow us to have the freedoms we have to play football every day. [...] When you go there, there's a certain aura that takes over you and brings a lot of perspective in your life -- from the tombs of the unknown soldiers to the 350,000 tombs that are there. And I don't think you ever really get a true perspective of how big it is until you're actually there, and it just keeps going and going and going. These are people's lives.
Fleck goes on to praise the lives of those buried at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery and share why he hopes his team of academic players is encouraged and motivated by them.
There's nothing average about that cemetery. There's nothing average about those men and women that are in that cemetery. That's the ultimate team, the ultimate sacrifice. [...] Everybody in that cemetery had a different religion, there were different race[s], they had different beliefs...it's incredible. It humbles you, and it makes you feel really small.
Fleck concludes the video acknowledging the role and responsibility he has to invest in the lives of his student athletes through opportunities like trips to the Fort Snelling National Cemetery.
I feel like it's my job as an educator and teacher is to make sure that they understand that that is the ultimate team, the ultimate sacrifice.
The coach has been praised online.
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