Rise above this incident Torrington football. You have the character.
TORRINGTON: There was no football played on Friday night by the Torrington Raiders football team due to the school’s decision to impose a self-disciplinary measure that stems from an incident that involved members of the team that were deemed unsportsmanlike.
From the viewpoint of someone who has watched this team and this coaching staff from the ground level since most of the seniors began playing four years ago, I have pure faith and confidence that the decision to forfeit the game was a proper one.
Now I know there is a major uproar from players and families of individuals not involved in the incident which seems to rise to the level of the punishment dolled out and I get it.
It is a very unfortunate situation that will no doubt be blown out of proportion in some circles to the point that some will damn the entire athletic department and school.
This would be the worst outcome possible and members of the football family and our community must resist the urge to attack, even if their outrage is tough to contain.
The notion that some players and even parents knew of what had or was occurring was the turning point for me. Turning a blind eye or hoping nobody would find out was the equivalent of condoning the behavior.
Here’s what I know about the football program, led by head coach Gaitan Rodriguez and his devoted staff.
Winning is not the most important thing, developing great young men who will go out into the world to become great men is the most important thing.
From the moment Rodriguez got here, his commitment was to the long-term success of his players. Their performance in the classroom, their performance in the community, their commitment to their families and their commitment on the gridiron in that order.
It’s a proper order.
“Warrior/Gentleman” is the way of Raider football under this head coach.
Warriors on the field, Gentlemen in all other aspects of their lives.
I have followed this team on the road this year, something I don’t normally do but what intrigued me was something that can’t be measured on a stat sheet.
I liked the make up of this team. Their toughness, their dedication and their grit.
At the start of each season, someone will undoubtably come up to me and ask me if I think the team will makes the states and it may disappoint them when I tell them I could care less.
Sure, it’s fun if any local team takes us on a run into the post season like the Raiders boys basketball team did a year ago or as the volleyball team and softball team did a few years back.
My priority though will always be watching to see what impact they will have on the world after they leave the nest at Torrington High School.
What lessons did they learn, good and bad, from their time being part of a team?
So, for this year’s Raiders, like most years, I wanted to see what they were made of.
The single-wing offense that I had seen for many a year when Housatonic football ran it was a new twist and I wanted to see how the Raiders fared with it.
From game number one in Woodland, it was apparent that Torrington was going to make some noise this year with a system that relies on pure strength and determination, something this team had in abundance.
It is a team made up of high-quality character young men who now find that character put to the test because of the actions of a few.
Doing the right thing, especially when it’s not the popular thing, is also a test of the character of the leaders of any organization and from the moment I heard about this incident, I had no doubt that the leadership at Torrington High School would do the right.
Not the easy thing, not let’s sweep it under the rug and hope nobody finds out thing but the right, tough thing to do.
In the big picture of the development of these student/athletes, it’s one football game.
They will not be defined by what occurred; they and our community will be judged by how they and we react.
For the players, here’s my advice for what it’s worth.
Get back to work when your coaches let you know when the next practice is.
Learn from a very tough situation that many of you didn’t put yourself in but found yourselves in, nonetheless.
Seniors go out with a bang by beating Watertown in less than two weeks on Thanksgiving Day. That will help define your legacy. Be the leaders we have seen all year, on and off the gridiron.
Underclassmen learn from this as well. See something, say something has been a part of your young lives for far too long but abide by it.
Never let this happen again at Torrington High School.
For the dedicated parents and supporters of Torrington High School student/athletes, don’t let your kids leave a program that will help them in ways they or you can’t even fathom at this point.
Be on hand on Thanksgiving Day in Watertown and support the entire program through the positive re-enforcement of the efforts you no doubt will see from these student/athletes and their coaches.
Rise up from this Raiders, you have the character and the strength to do so.