I grew up loving football, sometimes wishing I was a boy so I could play tackle football, and ended up on the sidelines in college taking football photos. But the thought of my 8-year-old playing tackle football scared me to no end. He is an average size kid and a decent athlete, but he wanted, no he begged, to play TACKLE football. After saying no-no-no, I realized I needed to let him try it and decide himself if he liked hitting and being hit and the glory of the game.
After years of being a soccer mom for 3 kids, immersion into our football culture has been eye-opening to say the least. Before the teams were picked, the jockeying amongst the parents to get their kids on a specific team was embarrassing. Yelling at 8-year olds on their first day of tackling–by their dads on the sidelines– was appalling. As if the team they make now will control their life destiny.
We wanted him to learn how a refereed game is different than the backyard one, play a position, put on and wear all the equipment (I certainly had no idea how many layers they wore), how much it really hurts to tackle and be at the bottom of the pile, meet some new boys and most importantly, have FUN! What a shocker–my son has worn a girdle before me!
The sideline paraphenalia was overwhelming–team pins and shakers and welcome pizza parties and banners and songs and many people decorating their cars–but once the first whistle blew, the overwhelmingness was all forgotten. We were parents, some still strangers, coming together to support our sons.
So impressive, how much they had all learned from their volunteer coaches in such a short time, how exciting it was to watch them!, how they worked together, how the parents cheered on all the boys, and how exciting the game was compared to my vision of little boys playing their first game running willy nilly around the field. And how great to have no negative cheering from our sidelines.
Sadly, we lost on the final overtime play, but did it really matter? The boys, once strangers like their parents, played like a team in their first game, and are looking forward to next weekend. I am eager to watch their playing progression this fall. And which will he choose for next year–soccer or football…or something else? C