Corey Costelloe mug

Corey Costelloe

Maybe you’ve heard it this past week as times grow increasingly uncertain. Maybe someone close to you has heard it as well as our response to novel coronavirus ramps up. Not everybody can hear it; matter of fact, a very select audience that are members of the fraternity of the Tehachapi Warriors are probably the only ones hearing what I am about to talk about.

It’s that voice that pushed us to do a little more, to embrace the fact that what we are experiencing in society right now isn’t normal, but it’s the situation we’re in and we’d better rise to the occasion to be successful.

I heard it several times in the locker room and in a huddle. I heard it when the game was on the line or when the outlook wasn’t certain. I’ve been hearing it more and more over the last week as things change, response to crisis shifts and opportunities to serve others and battle this new type of opponent expose themselves.

It’s a voice that is both encouraging and challenging. It’s saying one simple phrase that keeps repeating in my head. While it used to challenge me as a teenage player, it’s now challenging me as a father, husband, leader and community member.

It’s simply saying: “It’s gut-check time.”

If you know what I’m talking about you’re probably hearing it too, and you’re probably hearing it in the voice of former Tehachapi Warriors football coach Steve Denman. It’s what was uttered to you personally when he needed a little more, it was shouted to the team when we all needed to dig a little deeper. It’s a call to look inside yourself to find out what extra effort lies beneath, to give more when you don’t think there is anything left in the tank. It’s telling you that whatever challenge lies ahead, the tools for success are inside somewhere, but you have to figure out where.

If you never heard the voice, that’s OK. Maybe you have your own former coach or mentor whispering in your ear that phrase that challenged you. I’m passing that challenge on to all of us at this moment as we navigate uncharted waters.

Many are being called into unfamiliar roles, trying to balance saving a career and caring for a family as this virus continues to impact our lives. This is where athletics translates into life. This is a challenge unlike any we ever faced in competition, but former athletes have the tools to mentally face them head on. To respond to the gut-check.

Leaders aren’t born; they’re made. They’re forged in fire, sharpened with iron, heated by adversity and cooled only by the results they produce for those looking to them. It’s not found in a book, although plenty of self-proclaimed leaders swear reading this or that will make people want to follow you. Only the Holy Bible and the "book of human error" can do that, and only one of them actually exists, the other we write daily with our own experiences, hardships and reactions.

What is happening now is much larger than football, basketball, tennis or golf. It’s bigger than any of us probably ever imagined and we’re learning a lot about ourselves and who we are in the face of something unchartered in our lifetime.

We are Tehachapi, and as the namesake of our hometown team suggests, we are all Warriors, and it's gut-check time.

Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at corey.costelloe@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are his own.