The Red Helmet

by Dave Hanks

That which motivates can come in many guises. Extra pay, a little sincere praise, or a desire to change a situation - all these are common, well known stimulus. But once I knew a different type of motivation. A stimuli that led to a free college education and affected the course of my life.

It happened during my senior year in high school. It came in the color red - a glossy, florescent red that stood-out and seemed to glow under light - a shinny, red football helmet. Now a red helmet might not seem unusual except that our school colors and uniforms were green and white.

It all started a few hours before our second game of the season. My white helmet had developed a large crack and was therefore unusable. My hat size is quite large and that helmet was the biggest the school owned - there was none other. What to do? A sporting goods salesman happened to arrive before the ball game. He had several helmet samples with him and our coach called me in to try them on. One of the samples fit perfectly but it had a drawback. It was red. That didn't bother me any, as I had formed an immediate attachment to it. Our coach had a great ability to motivate his personnel, and though he didn't want a "misfit" amid the regular school colors, he displayed the "wisdom of Solomon" and consented to let me wear it. I think he sensed it's potential for stimulation.

So I acquired a bright red top piece, to the envy of my teammates. I stood out upon the playing field. You could see that helmet whether on top or underneath a pile. Eyes were automatically drawn to it. Because it was so much easier now for the coaches to follow my actions, I was forced to put much more effort into my playing. Opposing coaches were heard to cuss: "that damned red helmet!"

Soon the helmet became a badge of honor - a standard that must be upheld. After my graduation, the helmet was used for two more years before being withdrawn from use. Those who wore it after me also enjoyed success.

The publicity I received helped me land a spot on the Idaho All-Star Team and also a scholarship. Notoriety that was enhanced by that helmet.

I'm forever indebted to the color red!