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Stride, Soar, SucceedMaryalice Yakutchik

Stride Soar Succeed (continued)

BENCHING DOM

Monday, June 3 / Day 2

“Finish! It’s all about finishing,” Ron Pritchard yells across the expanse of turf, an anomaly of green in an otherwise parched landscape.

The kid did everything right—almost. He plowed his way in, created space and made an interception, but in the end, neglected to yell “DEVIL!”

“You want to alert your teammates that you’ve caught the ball, so they know they have to make a transition now from defense, right Dominique?”

Seventeen-year-old Dominique Yazzie limps back into line, eager to have another chance at perfecting this dig-and-drift zone technique. His impaired gait concerns Pritchard, a former NFL linebacker who now coaches at a private school in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

When the guys break for lunch, he finds Dominique to ask what’s going on: “Where are you hurt at Dom?”

Squinting up at coach, Dominique says: “In my groin.”

“I would rather have a calf pull or a tear in my thigh,” Pritchard says, “because when the groin is torn, it’s very, very sore, and hard to heal.”

Dominique admits he’s not sought any treatment yet.

“If I were you,” Pritchard says, “I wouldn’t play in the game today. How do you feel about that? Or do you feel like you must play?”

Dominique nods. His habit is to play through pain: “I love the game, and want to help my teammates out.”

“Typical warrior,” Pritchard responds. “Absolutely typical. The highest-level athletes think the same way. They feel responsible not only for themselves but their teammates. That’s the scary part, because some injuries you can’t play through.”

Pritchard bides his time before putting his foot down, before insisting that safety come first. He wants Dominique to assume responsibility for taking care of his own body. 

“I’m telling you,” he says. “If you play it would be a foolish thing. You could put your senior season in jeopardy.”

Dominique appears convinced. Some-what. Pritchard asks if he plans to play after high school, and Dominique says he likes Oregon, adding that he’d need a scholarship to go play for the Ducks. 

“Are your grades good? What’s your GPA? Anytime we can get a guy who can play football and also have the desire to develop academically, that’s the best match,” Pritchard says. “That’s the perfect storm.”

Stanford football alum and former NFL linebacker John Olenchalk—a NativeVision coach since 1997—declares the break over and sends the guys back out from the sidelines for more drills before a long-awaited scrimmage. 

Pritchard puts a hand on Dominique’s shoulder: “With your speed, and how you cut, you could rip that groin in half and you may never get over that one. Honestly. So you got to think a little bit in the future.”

A four-year veteran of NativeVision, Pritchard describes these guys as his “three-day family.” In their short time together, he seizes opportunities to dig deep and reach these kids’ hearts and souls. If he can do that, he knows they are going to trust him. And with trust, miracles can happen. He’s seen them happen—in these kids’ lives as well as in his own. 

Still sensing that Dom is teetering, Pritchard poses a rhetorical question: “Are you coachable? Yes you are. So you’re not playing today. How ‘bout that?”

“Sounds good to me,” Dominique agrees.

Now it’s Pritchard who needs convincing: “You trust me?”

“Yes, sir. I do.”

 

“If I can reach your soul, if I can reach your heart, if I can reach who ou ar, you're going to learn to trust me." —Ron Pritchard, with Dominique Yazzie

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