(Editor’s note: Mrs. Laker, a North Decatur High School English teacher, recently asked her students to share an essay on any topic of their choice. The following was what she received from student Elena Bedel.)

The Prayer Rope

A rope is one single unit that is comprised of hundreds of individual strings. Every string by itself is weak, but when twisted into one rope, they are able to complete miraculous feats. As a football manager, I am just one string that makes up the rope of the North Decatur football team.

The prayer rope was introduced to the North Decatur High School football team in the fall of 2015 by the head coach and the resource coach. The red and white strands stretch nearly 250 feet in length. Each year, a new player is appointed with the title, “Carrier of the Rope.’’ He is always a junior chosen by the outgoing Carrier. The Carrier of the Rope has the duty of unraveling it as the team gathers around in a circle, latching hold as he walks by. Anything and everything may be said on the rope. Many times, words of wisdom, good luck wishes, and names of people are mentioned with everyone gathered around to listen.

The rope brings us together to recognize our wins and losses in life. The team prays with it at the end of team dinners on Thursday nights, before games, and after games on the field where we also invite family and friends to grab ahold. When times become hard for a fellow team member with the loss of a loved one, the team joins at the funeral where the team and the family gather on the rope to say a special prayer for the recently deceased. After the prayer, pieces are cut from the rope, ends are torched, and the segment is pierced with a keychain ring. The pieces are then gifted to members of the family to remember the Charger football team and how they came together as one united family to be there for the grieving one, just like they were for mine at my grandpa’s funeral. In remembrance, the family attaches an inscribed piece of leather to the primary rope. Once the season has come to an end, the end of the rope with all of the leather pieces containing game scores and funeral names is cut and hung in the locker room for all the players to recognize as they enter and exit the locker room.

The Charger football team unifies as one, both on the rope and the field. The rope symbolizes the importance of working together to complete the task at hand and to support one another no matter the situation. I have experienced this first hand and it is truly remarkable to see all the single strings consolidate to create a rope.

The team never only joins on the rope for themselves. My grandpa passed away on June 7, 2018 and the majority of the football team showed up at visitation to support me in my time of loss. It feels so good to have your second family get behind you like this one does.

Another instance took place on Sept. 22, 2017. Eastern Hancock came to North Decatur for football that night. Their football team lost one of their own just one month before. To honor him, we dug out the rope for both of our teams to hold, as the Chargers stood in between each Eastern Hancock player. That touching moment left most of us with tears in our eyes.

The joining shows there is more to football than just the game and one competing against another.

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