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Winning,’ off the field

Kate Gales | Friday, November 19, 2004

Notre Dame Stadium has always been a place where dreams fade or dreams are made. And on that sun-drenched Sunday afternoon, a dream was put away for another fall for the Cavanaugh interhall football team. After a season starting at the top and ending first in the polls, there was only goal left unfinished – brining the coveted title home to the North Quad.

Disappointing? Yes. Devastating? Almost. But demeaning? Never.

Because the team went out there before hundreds of fans (and a band with a halftime show) and played a hard-fought game and learned a few lessons along the rocky road that is the interhall women’s season. And at the end of the day, without trophy but brimming with pride, we look back and remember the reasons that interhall football really is what Notre Dame is all about.

My parents probably never thought they would raise a daughter who would run through the tunnel with Touchdown Jesus raising his arms behind her, who would take the field with 50 teammates and a crowd cheering with passion unrivaled by any football Saturday.

OK, so I’m more Rudy than the Rocket, but I did have a number of fans yelling my name and one verified jersey-chaser. I didn’t have a golden helmet (which is convenient, as the last thing I want in a postgame photo is helmet hair) but I did have a lovely set of flags and a green T-shirt that I wear with unequalled pride.

So we lost. After spending last week chalking the sidewalks in front of DeBartolo and having fun with glass-writing markers, it wasn’t an easy loss to take. But there are wonderful moments over my past two seasons that deserve a moment of reflection.

On the field, I’ve realized that football isn’t quite as easy as it looks – and we’re not even required to make tackles. I’ve seen that fourth-and-inches is possibly the most stressful time for any team, offense or defense. I learned that putting your trust in your teammates – and yourself – is probably one of the hardest things to ask of yourself.

But the off-field lessons are just as valuable. As post-victory parties, I learned that Jell-O is not always what it seems, that a Suburban can’t always carry as many people as you thought it would and that a whisper can be very, very loud.

I’ve been inspired by a number of e-mails from our head coach, Lou Perry, who will forever be “Coach Lou” to me. I learned that in the defensive huddle, anything and everything is fair game for a cheer. I saw that your best friends will always be on the sidelines cheering you on and that there’s really nothing as flattering as a jersey chaser.

But most of all, I learned there’s nothing like a team to bring people together. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been on a team that made it to the Stadium, but I count myself much luckier for having such an amazing group of teammates and coaches. We’ll miss some ridiculously talented seniors but for the rest of us – there’s always next year.