Weekly Column: God, Family, and Football.

©2008, Stephenie Freeman

School has started which means only one thing.  Football season is just around the corner.

Football is a tradition in our family.  I was raised to love the sport.  Everyone is raised in Oklahoma to love three things: God, family, and football.  Preferably in that order.  Saturdays in the fall were my family’s Sabbath—a holy day that was spent worshipping at Memorial Stadium in Norman.

My father coached the Pee Wee football team at my elementary school one season.  He was a great Pee Wee coach, getting the kids to the games by promising Hershey candy bars afterwards.  Obviously, it was just the motivation that his team needed to win.  They were the City Champs that year.

My husband, The Golfer, played football when he was young.  He was never the biggest guy on the team, but he was definitely one of the fastest.  He claims to have scored several touchdowns during his junior high career, but there is no recorded evidence to actually prove his claims.

Now it’s my son’s turn to discover how much fun football can be.  That is, if the coach and all of the football parents will let him.

It was during the first parent meeting that I found out how intense the Mighty Mite football league was going to be.

The coach informed all of us that the players, our little five- and six-year-old boys, need to be at every single practice come hell or high water.  Sickness is no excuse.  Unless my child is projectile vomiting or running an extremely fever, he’ll need to be at practice even if it’s just sitting on the sidelines infecting the rest of his teammates.

“And what about homework?” a concerned parent asked; a very good question since these first graders have it every night.  The coach’s simple answer was that they could bring it to practice to work on in between drills.  Nothing like learning how to add and catch a pass all in one fell swoop.

But I understand where the coach is coming from.  I want to teach the Cheese that when you make a commitment to something you have to stick with it, rain or shine, homework or high fever.

The coach also informed us that it is against the law in our state for a parent to talk to or touch an official.  

“You will go to jail,” he told us.

My son spent the rest of the evening asking me what will happen to him when his father and I go to jail.  Apparently he has been watching us closely during football games and has reason to be concerned.

Finally it was time for his first practice.  I participated with the other parents in cheering for the team—cheering for every pass, the hits and the misses.

But there was one mom who wasn’t cheering.  She was too busy focusing.  While the rest of us lazily sat in our lawn chairs sipping our Starbucks, this mom squatted on the sideline, moving wherever she needed to get the best view of her child.

She was extremely attentive, this football mom, and I could quickly see why.  Her son was good—really good—especially for a Mighty Mite player.  He caught every pass that was thrown to him and was faster than any other kid on the team.  She had reason to be so intense—she has a young Adrian Peterson or Sam Bradford on her hands.

My son, neither fast nor quick to catch the ball, was put on the line of scrimmage as a guard.  My underweight son, who has often been referred to as “scrawny” and has never rated higher on the growth chart than the twentieth percentile, has actually shown some promise as a blocker.  I think it’s because he likes getting to push kids around and not get in trouble.  Lord knows he’s gotten plenty of practice at home with his little brother.

As the whistle blew, my usually timid child plowed right into the teammate he was covering, knocking him to the ground and falling right on top of him.

I tried my best not to cheer too loudly, out of respect for the other player’s parents, but it’s hard not to get excited when you realize that you’re raising the next Brian Bosworth.  


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