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Photo ofJake Kubacki

When I first joined football in fifth grade, I struggled a lot with everything from the gear to the conditioning. In the summertime, it was sweltering, so all of the equipment was hard to carry, and the running did not help. All of that made me want to quit multiple times, but my mom and dad always told me to persevere and push through it. I ended up gaining from it in the end. I was mentally focused and felt like I could do anything, and I was physically ready too. I lost twenty pounds from working hard.

The following year wasn't too different; I wasn't prepared and struggled a lot. I got myself together and started pushing to my limits and beyond. I was fighting for my starting spot on the team, so I made myself push past my limits, and it ended up backfiring. I had just started sixth grade and was already behind because I was focusing on football more than anything. My grades began to drop, and my parents were not happy. So I slowed down just a little bit on football to focus on my grades. I lost my starting spot for a couple of weeks because I wasn't too focused on football. I got my grades up and got my starting position back before the season ended.

Starting seventh grade wasn't too difficult for me because I was ready; I kept up with my grades and was doing good for the entire season, so nothing too special happened, but it still physically changed me. I lost another twenty pounds in total by the end of the season. 

Eighth grade was the most brutal year of football for me because of everything that happened. The season started ok, but I developed a knee problem during the season, it was getting hard to run. It got so bad it began to hurt to walk. I wore a knee brace for weeks. Towards the end of the season, the worst thing that could happen to me did. Just one year earlier, my family and I got a cat. His name is Turk; I liked how he was so energetic and cuddly at the same time. He was just turning one year old when he was diagnosed with FIP (Feline infectious peritonitis). He had to be put down during my last game of the season. My team ended up winning by two touchdowns, and after I got home, it felt so empty. I felt lost and confused; I didn't know what to do because I was scared for the cat we just got a week earlier. He was four months old at the time, and we were frightened he might catch it. 

A couple of months later and my cat is ten months old and is doing just fine. His name is Ballo. This changed me because I’ve faced down and overcome many challenges because of football, and I am okay with it.

© Jake Kubacki. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.