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On Deck… with Cindy Crosby

Many of life’s most important lessons can be learned on the playground in elementary school. Seriously, think about it. We learn to share, get along with others, take turns, include everyone, use our imagination, compete, and a multitude of other things…including sports.

Last Monday evening, as I proudly watched Jim Brown and the Clemson Tigers defeat Oklahoma 40-6 in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando and I followed the excitement over the announcement that Michael Gruber had been selected to play in the Medal of Honor Bowl in front of numerous NFL scouts in Charleston, I could only sit and think back to the playground at CPA.

Back in the day, there was a swing where the teachers would sit and monitor the playground activity during recess. And, off to the right, was a small, sandy spot nestled between the trees and equipment, just big enough to provide a make-shift football field. How well I remember watching these boys, among others, pull footballs out of the book bags on the way out the door to recess. Even then, they had stars in their eyes and a fierce competitive spirit. In fact, such spirit that it usually meant the teachers played referee more often than enjoying the swing.

And, if you ever had to confiscate the football for a little more than two-hand-touch, you needed to be prepared for the flow of tears or the charm to turn up a notch. How well I remember Michael Gruber having me completely wrapped around his finger in 2nd grade; just ask anyone. Even back then, Jim was a tremendous Clemson fan and his smile could melt your resolve quickly and yes, he had great hair then too!

Each day, after recess, there was a rule that started largely because of Michael and Jim (and a few others!) and the pigskin. After lining-up to make our way back inside, we had to wait for the boys to remove their shoes and dump all the playground sand, from that make-shift field, out of them. So much sand that in fact, we would often joke that there would be no sand left on the playground if we didn’t!

Now, I’ve come to realize all that sand, that I used to regret seeing on my rugs, was the beginning of something special for these two young men and I am thankful to have done a lot of sweeping and refereeing.

After all, the best lessons are learned on the playground. Congratulations, Jim and Michael!