Most of us have played organized sport at one time or another, at all different levels of skill and dedication.
When it comes down to game time, we all know the importance of finding some sort of motivation, a place within ourselves if you will, to push us to our greatest ability.
It may be at a place like Michigan, where Mike Barwis delivers his raspy, adrenaline pumping, profane filled message to send you into an emotional frenzy.
Maybe you prefer traveling back in time and going old school, such as Notre Dame’s legendary coach Knute Rockne and his famous speech, or perhaps a pep-talk in the form of those delivered by Lou Holtz gets you going.
Maybe you pop in the ear phones of your iPod and blare your favorite music. You might watch one of your favorite sports flicks, such as Any Given Sunday and Al Pacino’s Peace by Inches speech.
How about the necessary pre-game group prayer to calm the nerves and help you focus?
All of these practices have proven over time that inspiration and motivation come from all sorts of different techniques and methods, and that everyone has their own individual preferences
Well here’s a new one for you: Marbles. Yes, that’s right, Marbles.
After losing to Florida in a blowout in 2006, Jim Tressel made sure his team didn’t forget that game. He changed all of the codes to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to 4114, signifying the final score of the Florida debacle.
As the season went on, Coach Tressel pushed an “us-against-the-world” mentality, to no avail as LSU shattered the Buckeye’s championship dreams.
This year, Tressel took a much more subtle approach, but one with resounding symbolism: Marbles.
This year’s senior class received a special gift courtesy of Coach Tressel, a glass box containing twelve marbles. The marbles vary in color: six gray, five scarlet, and one blue.
Those colors signify the docket of games for this season’s schedule, with six home games, five road games, and one very important rivalry game with Michigan.
In case you haven’t caught on with the theme here, the reason only the seniors received these marbles is to symbolize their remaining games to be played as a member of the Ohio State football program.
Their boxes are already a bit lighter, as with the completion of each game, a marble is returned to Coach Tressel in his office and placed in a vase. With Youngstown State in the past, so lies an empty slot where a marble once rested.
Like sand through the hourglass, these are the days of their lives.
One down. Eleven more to go.
Talk about the ultimate motivation: reflection. Imagine that little glass box staring you in the face, indicating your college career is slowly dwindling down to its end, marble by marble.
It’s a constant reminder to those who have given their all to the program that the end is nearing. Some may view it as a way to stay focused. Others may view it as putting things into perspective.
They can all probably agree on one thing: the opportunity is there for the taking, to make the most of their final season in Scarlet and Gray.
As the season winds down, win or lose, the marbles will fill up the vase and each player will have their own connotation with every deposit. A time to think back on all they accomplished not only on the football field, but in life.
Soon these young men will begin the journey of the rest of their lives, taking the empty glass box with them. No matter how this season goes, that empty box will always be full; full with memories of the ups and the downs, the good and the bad, and all they have to be proud of.
Jim Tressel will also have something to remember this group of dedicated seniors, those who decided to come back for one last run. That vase full of marbles will do for Tressel what the empty box will do for these seniors.
Who knows, if they take care of business, they may once again get to play for “all the marbles”...literally.