Sweaty Hair and Slobbery Mouthpieces
Each evening I go to football practice to watch my eight year old practice football. We meet at a park-like field that sits alongside a huge parking lot. As I pull up, he hops out and runs out onto the field. I park and then I get out and walk. Sometimes other moms walk with me and we get to visit for two hours or until we are tired of walking. We discuss school, church, kids, kids and football, work, and sometimes dreams. One evening I was walking with another mother and we discussed football.
I told her that this was our first year because I didn’t really want my young son to be hurt or to be yelled at every night for two hours (I must add that our coaches are fantastic and do not yell). I finally relented and let him sign up. He was elated. Now, he owns shoulder pads (ooohhh!), a helmet (Yeah) and pants with pads (ooohhhrah). He gets to wear a slobbery mouthpiece and real cleats (Unnnttt). All of the things he previously “would give anything for,” he now has. He is fairly small but still goes every night and gets shoved onto his tail end, his front, his side, his face, his arms, his knees…he has a great relationship with the mud.
His homework is squeezed in while picking up the other kids, cooking supper, and finding all of the football gear. With some effort and encouragement we have created a workable schedule that includes an incredible amount of activity in a very small window of time. Our evenings and weekends are filled with either practice, games, or washing sweat soaked jerseys, pants, socks, and the expensive compression gear that ALL football players simply MUST have – never mind that his compression pants hang from the waist and never actually make contact with those super thigh muscles. The only thing the compression pants compress is my wallet.
Our middle school guy plays football also – on a different field with different coaches and different requirements. The “official requirements” list for middle school football is an unending list of whatever the NFL is currently wearing – or whatever he thinks he can talk us into! Rib pads AND a shirt with built in pads all UNDER the shoulder pads. All black practice cleats AND a spare pair for games, so they are clean. I gave him a damp rag the night before the first game and told him to get with it. Shirts to go under the pads and shirts to go over the pads. Mouth pieces and gloves and special socks that cost more than my last kitchen appliance.
The middle -schooler is one of four sixth graders who tried out for the team. Some of the older guys (8th grade) are clearly six to eight inches taller and at least 50 to 75 pounds heavier if not more. He looks like a skinny string bean up against them on the line. I am sure it is all the compression wear holding in his bulging muscles! His biggest disadvantage, however, is not the size of the other players. Oh, No. He is at a disadvantage because his old folks – the ones with the money – will not cooperate. He only has ONE pair of cleats and ONE set of compression shorts, ONE pair of pants with pads and ONE undershirt with built in pads. He has learned to wash ONE load of clothes every night if he wants to wear his gear the next day. He tells us that he completes his homework at school each day and I can only assume that he is correct.
I, in particular, get a bit miffed at times with some of the rules and the way that the coaches handle situations with very young boys. I worry that they will get hurt and I worry that they won’t play enough and then I worry that they will play TOO much. However, at the end of the day whether it be practice or a game, they run off the field with sweaty hair, mud-stained pants, slobbery mouthpieces dangling from their helmets, and a huge smile.
That is when I remind myself that if they are happy, I am happy.