• Pop Warner Football, Busted Lip, Stitches… And What It Taught Me!

    in Personal Blog,Self-Improvement

    If you’ve read my story about being born severely bowlegged with little chance of walking properly, then perhaps you’ll understand why mom and grandma kept me away from sports.

    (To be honest, I think my grandma would’ve kept me from sports regardless. She had some very unfortunate lethal tragedies with BOTH of her sons, my would-be uncles, at very young ages so I can understand her fear of “EVERYTHING.”)

    But somehow, pop warner football slipped through the cracks and I found myself playing tackle football for the first time in my life. I was 12 and boy was I thrilled!

    Prior to that, the closest I ever got to football was stuffing my pants with socks and towels like they were real pads… all while putting on a bicycle helmet. I’d go “heads up” against my sofa like it was William “The Refrigerator” Perry.

    While I was banned from ever thinking about playing football (or any other sport) for years, the ironic part was that my family, especially grandma, LOVED football. After all, her daughter’s boyfriend was Gary Jeter from the former Anaheim Rams, among other NFL teams.

    So now I was the real deal. I had real pads. A real helmet. A real uniform. No more prancing around in home-made articles.

    Instead of going “heads up” against my sofa, I went heads up against my teammates… and ultimately against my opponents, come game day. (Oh yeah, “heads up” just means lining up in the classic football stance and ramming into another person, or in my case, object!)

    But apparently, I didn’t understand you weren’t supposed to solicit your classmates and go “heads up” in the back of your 7th grade English class while the teacher wasn’t looking (Yes, I was quite a character… more on my class-clownishness in another post).

    There we were. My already 6 foot friend, Travis and I going heads up in the back of the class.


    I ram forward as hard as I can and he unexpectedly goes really low. Really low.

    What happened next changed my life.

    I literally flew over his back into the corner of the wall… face first, splitting my upper lip into two.

    All I could feel was numbness. Blood poured out of my lip. I vividly remember my shirt soaked in blood.

    I don’t even think the teacher fully discovered how I busted my lip. Everyone was sworn to secrecy. In fact, I don’t think I ever told my mom the whole truth. She knows I ran into a wall… just not how!

    (Incidentally, she reads this blog so I guess I’m busted now. Sorry mom!)

    That whole ordeal ended in several stitches, a week out of school, 3 missing football games, and a permanent scar above my upper lip that will forever remind me of my audaciousness.

    I bet you’re wondering how I’ll tie this to music?

    (Gosh, why do I always have to tie my stories to music anyway? Can’t I just tell a story to tell it!?!)

    Haha, I’m joking. I don’t mind because there *IS* a message here.

    The message is there’s always a time and place for everything.

    Yes, I was excited to finally be playing real tackle football. To the next kid who had been playing since 7, it was perhaps just another year of ball. For me, it was something I wanted to do for years!

    Going “heads up” isn’t a bad thing… WHEN ON THE FIELD, UNDER SUPERVISION!

    Going heads up without the proper equipment and in the wrong setting is BAD. It wasn’t the time nor place to be engaging in such a thing, and unfortunately I paid the price. Everyday, I see the manifestation of “bad time and place” on my lip (although, now disguised a little bit by my mustache.)

    Undoubtedly, as you excel in your music and learn new chords, voicings, patterns, and ideas, excitement is going to overwhelm you.

    You’re going to want to play everything you know in the first 20 seconds of your performance. You may even have the urge to be super busy sneaking in a “lick” or “run” after every other chord.

    This is no different than my desire to go “heads up” all the time, whether against inanimate objects like sofas or in the back of classrooms. Rather than saving and harnessing that energy for the RIGHT TIME, I was like a 2-year old at Chuck E. Cheeses.

    There is a time and place for everything.

    Veteran musicians know when someone is new and inexperienced because the new guy will “pull out all the stops” right from the beginning. They’ll start the song with the same intensity and dynamics they should instead end with. They’ll be “flipping” and reharmonizing melodies from the first chord! (Don’t get me wrong, “flipping songs” and making things your own is the name of the game but you gradually build up to that.)

    The experienced one, on the other hand, will approach their performance thoughtfully and strategically, “keeping their powder dry” until the right time. They may start the song very basic. The next time around, they may add a little something more. And as the song progresses, they’ll include more and more of them at the right time.

    They understand the importance of “time” and “place.”

    So the next time you feel tempted to act this way, remember my lip.

    You’ll have plenty of time to go “heads up,” don’t worry.

    Silence is more musical than any song.
    Christina Rossetti

    And that goes for anything in life!

    Balance, my friend, is the key word.

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.


    1 Evelyn Diane

    Great post Jermaine, and yes you let the cat out of the bag. Lol (Mom)

    2 Sulena Olivia

    Great post. Very vivid, and effective analogy!

    3 Ryan 'Allaire

    Hey Jermaine,

    Great blog posts… Seems like your telling me face to face- in person..

    So glad to see your doing well.. Congrats on your nice big family you and your wife have made!

    I can’t believe it’s been so long when you couldn’t rent a car yet… arriving in Daytona,FL.

    take care,

    4 Silvio Martina

    Great blog post and very inspirational. I see that everything has something to do with people, sports, music, animals, culture, trees, sea, sky, earth, and so on, and so on.
    Thank you very much for the eye opener.

    5 akerele shola

    I think you are right most times up coming musicians tends
    to do that,with this article now i think we are geting to the next
    level of being professionals.thanks

    6 Harold

    At 62, I still ask myself, “How can I do this performance better?” I would even experiment during a gig. That’s my going “heads up” without anyone noticing but me!

    7 bradford full time

    Real wonderful information can be found on this blog.

    8 Logo Design NI

    Greeting like your efforts have a look of mine

    9 C Anthony

    What you have written is so true! You practice and practice and you don’t want to look bad in front of other musicians and you go all out and two things happen. 1 you are so busy making so much noise that the song is lost on those listening because there’s this busy person on the keyboards and 2 you instantly become that guy no one wants to work with because you are too busy and want to be seen as well as heard. Not good at all. You’d be amazed at how amazing you sound when you keep it simple throwing in something every once in awhile. People really appreciate that and they hear you more when you are less busy.

    10 Amelia

    The analogy is great – I wish I had a harder head!

    11 Lynn

    Jermaine, you always have a quality story to share with a lot of meaning.

    12 oriokot

    this is a powerful insight. thanks Jermaine

    13 Michael T

    Thank you Jermaine. Awesome analogy, excellent lesson for me personally.

    14 David S Dent

    hi Jermaine,

    great story, I really enjoyed it… thanks


    15 ann ross

    Jermaine, your story really inspired me to get started with the piano tuition. “Little by little fills the measure”.


    16 ann ross



    17 Tony Summerville

    I was looking through some of your blog posts on this site and I think this web site is real instructive! Continue posting.

    18 viji

    can you explain me about swing chords

    19 Bobby

    I love your posts Jermaine, and am determined to get playing the piano this year.
    Happy new year to you.

    20 Oluwamuyiwa Anuoluwapo

    Hi Jermaine, this is inspiring and educative. It is a big caution for a lot of us who learn new chords and progressions that we want to quickly add up at the beginning of a song either to impress ourselves or those who have looked down on us in time past. This is an antidote to ‘pride’. Bless you and the entire family of hear and play

    21 chimezie

    this is really inspiring and touching,I wish to go higher through you, u’re God sent indeed.

    22 johnson

    Thanks Jermaine

    23 Dele

    Waoow i didn’t see that coming. Nice post

    24 Dexter

    Awesome post. I see musicuans that go heads up through out p&w service non stop. It’s exhausting to hear continually.

    25 Carolyn

    Thanks, Jermaine – you always have such informative information connected to your stories. I love your stories because it all falls back to something related to music that I can enhance and apply to my skills. Also, helping me not to error in the same way. Thanks for letting me know I still have time to get to the place in music that I am striving for. You said it’s about quality not quantity. You are a great teacher. May God continue to bless you and your family as you bless so many others

    26 Federico Oswalt

    This is such an excellent post, I want to thank you for this report.

    27 Shakira Cozart

    Great message!

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