I saw a mixture of eye black and tears trickling down faces, as an exhausted group of players took off their helmets, some for the last time. I couldn’t help but think that no defeat could be big enough to swallow up the accomplishments of Team One. This is the group that will be remembered for going toe to toe with the top football team in the state, and never blinking. This was the team that, perhaps more than any other, brought our community together for the first time in nearly four decades.
They embodied what this community is at its core: resilient.
Just a few moments later, as Lapeer’s football team, our team, took a knee to listen to their coach find the words to describe what we were all feeling, we were enveloped. A large group of community supporters, parents and well-wishers encircled the team close enough to hear words that I’m certain will stay with many of them forever.
Coach Mike Smith didn’t gloss over the pain that every member of his team felt, and that they would feel for some time to come; but, the agony of defeat wasn’t the only certainty that he shared with his team that night. There was something bigger than football those boys-turned-men needed to hear in that moment.
“Team one is a special group; you’re special,” Smith said, fighting back tears. “I know, without a doubt in my mind, that if you guys put as much effort into your life off this field as you put into your life on it, you will succeed.
“If you do that, you cannot fail.”
Remember his words; Remember this team.
It has been said that some of life’s most important lessons are learned between the white lines. Opportunities to be a part of a team, to be coachable, to understand how to win (and lose) are priceless.
I think it’s fair to say that, this Fall, our young people had something to teach all of us. In victory and defeat, our student-athletes shined. They taught us how to adapt to change, to work together toward a common goal and to represent our community with great pride. They played for each other; they played for Lapeer.
We saw this theme play out all over the District, as our boys’ soccer team knocked off undefeated Flint Powers to win the conference championship. We saw it on the volleyball court, as our girls went from unranked and unknown all the way to the Elite Eight in Class A. We saw it on the tennis courts, in the pool, and on the courses, both cross country and golf.
This dynamic played out all season, and at every level. Our student-athletes proved, over and over, that all of us truly are better than any of us.
Most importantly, we saw the teamwork that made our teams succeed carry over into our schools. The anxiety that, for many, accompanied every step in our transition to one high school, is now a thing of the past. Lapeer Community Schools is delivering on its promise to educate all students, to provide more and better choices, and is now taking its place among the most innovative school districts in the state.
Next month it will be my honor to tell our story, the Lapeer Story, at the Innovative Schools Conference in Lansing. This opportunity is proof positive that people across the state have a keen eye toward what we have done and what we’re going to do.
Not long ago, I was struck by a comment that one of our community members posted to our District’s Facebook page. It was in response to a simple question, asked of our thousands of followers, about what they love about our community. Planted between lighthearted comments about Max’s donuts and the laid-back luxuries of country living, were these five words: “I love our new reputation.”
One Lapeer isn’t just another school district among the hundreds; we are one of one. We have become a destination district for students seeking challenge and choice, for parents looking for a small-town feel with a big-city opportunities.
Where success is measured not in points but in prosperity, we remain too committed to fail.
Thank you to all our student-athletes and to a great community that supports them.