I love being around championship teams, especially High School ones. There’s something so pure about winning a High School Sports Championship that’s so enduring to me. There are no contract negotiations that are affected by it, or endorsement deals to be had as a result. There is just the joy of winning something with your teammates and friends. There is no selfish motivation or personal gain outside of the internal memory that you get to cherish personally for the rest of your life.
I never won a high school championship. I have the dubious honour of losing in the BC High School Football Championship BOTH my grade eleven and grade twelve seasons. Two games that haunt my memory of an otherwise fantastic high school football experience.
So, every time I get asked to come and speak at a high school championship celebration, I do whatever I can to make sure I’m there. There’s a touch of youthful jealousy that loves to be around something I wished so badly I had the chance to experience for myself.
New West High had decided to blend their football team’s ring ceremony with an overall celebration of their entire school’s sports excellence. I thought it was a nice touch to keep making everything as school inclusive as possible. Don’t separate students, unify them. Love it.
Their gym was packed. It was an amazing energy filled environment to speak in. My message was simple. What it takes to be a champion isn’t found in height, wingspan, hand size or any other physical measurable. It’s found in the mind, and in the heart. Champions are made by vision, a decision to never quit, who they surround themselves with, and their ability to see problems as opportunities to improve and grow.
I believe in that formula and have my own football career to show for it. Too small by all standard measurements, I used what was in my control to make it anyways. The beauty of that way of living is, it transfers with you to everything you choose to apply it to in life. It’s not left on the playing field with all those impressive broad jumps and 40-yard dash times. It’s a championship way of living.
The trophy’s and rings are just a byproduct of that way of living that sometimes began many, many years earlier. As is the case with this New West Football program. Their 2017 BC Football Championship is by no doubt a result of relentless work by each and everyone one of those young men. However, it is also a result of a vision set out over 15 years earlier by their head coach, Farhan Lalji. The man that brought football back to New Westminster.
Like all champions, Farhan started with a vision. He wanted to bring this school a program that all could participate in, and reap the benefits this great sport offers our youth. In 2003 he set out to make that vision a reality.
Starting a school football program from scratch is a daunting task for anyone. Throw in the fact that Farhan isn’t even a teacher, or has any employment link to either the school or the education system at all, and you have a real uphill climb. But climb is just what he did. He followed the championship checklist to a tee.
He had his vision. He resolved to never give up. He went about finding and surrounding himself with the very best to support him in his mission. And finally, he attacked every roadblock with an open mind on how to turn them into great opportunities.
He will be the very first to give all the credit to the countless people that have helped him along the way. Fair enough. But a ship can have the greatest crew assembled in the world, but will never leave port without a captain at the helm.
Farhan built this ship. He did it one day at a time. Never losing belief in his vision through all the ups and downs along the way. 15 years later, he finally wins a Provincial Championship. It couldn’t have happened to a better man. I’m so proud of him.
The rings are nice, and will be cherished by the players probably for the rest of their lives. What matters a whole lot more though, are the hundreds and hundreds of kids whose lives have been positively affected by the creation of this program. 15 years ago, Farhan did much more than start a football team. He created a much-needed outlet for all needing one. A place for kids to belong. An outlet to get structure, be encouraged, challenged and ultimately cared for.
We need more outlets like this for our youth in today's world. They may seem like daunting tasks to get done until we realize the daunting issues created if we don’t. We need to have a strong vision of the world we want to create. We need to resolve to never quit on getting there. We need to be smart enough to surround ourselves with great people who are onboard for the mission. And finally, we need to look at the issues in our way, not as excuses, but as opportunities to improve, grow, and get us closer to our ultimate goal.
In short, we need more champions like Farhan.
Congratulations Coach. Well EARNED.