"What sports do your children play?"
"They play football, basketball, and soccer."
More often than not, I already know their response to my answer before they even open their mouths.
"You mean they play flag football?"
"No, they play tackle."
The look on their face usually talks before they do. How on Earth do I let them play tackle? Aren't I afraid they'll get hurt? Aren't I afraid of concussions? My children will never play football!
And you know what? I get it. I really do. I was that mom about five years ago. No. 1 was in the second grade and wanted to play football. I immediately shut him down as I thought there was no way this scrawny, little toothpick is a football player. Luckily, he didn't push. He went on about second grade playing soccer and basketball.
That winter during basketball season, we met an amazing family who's youngest played on the same team as No. 1. They were some of the friendliest, most supportive people I had ever met. Dad was a PE teacher and mom was a group fitness instructor. Dad played the drums at church and mom helped teach Sunday School. And guess what? Both of their sons played football. Real, tackle football.
Dad reached out to my husband and I, inquiring as to whether or not No. 1 would be interested in playing in the Fall . I immediately said he was not. But after a few more conversations with them, as well as my husband, I began to change my mind. He explained to us how he coached, and all the safety precautions that were taken, etc. Winter basketball ended (their team did great!) and we went about our regularly scheduled program.
As Summer began, I received a Facebook message from none other than "Football Dad" asking whether or not my boy was signed up yet. I explained to him that he wasn't just yet, but that he definitely would be. I'm not even going to lie, reading the waiver scared the living daylights out of me, but I did it. Everything in life has risks, right? He was signed up to play, and hubby was signed up to coach.
About a month or so later, he was issued his helmet and equipment and practice began. I wasn't sure what to expect. I actually ended up with TWO kids playing tackle. My original plan was to have No. 2 play a year of flag as he was only 7 and in the second grade. (Tackle in our area begins at age 7, as long as the child weighs at least 40 pounds). He attended the non-contact mini camp alongside No. 1 and decided he too wanted to play tackle.
Before I knew it, both my big boys were "hitting", my husband was coaching, and I was the team mama. And it has been like that ever since.
Entering our fifth season as a football family, I want to share with you all that I have gained and learned thanks to the sport that is tackle football.
- A new found respect for coaches. All of the coaches in our club are volunteers, from head to assistants. They spend countless months, days, and hours both on the field and off, helping our children to become the best that they can be. Many begin so young and haven't the slightest idea how to even get into a 3-point stance. The coaches don't make a penny, but they invest lifelong lessons into our players that cannot be bought.
- Not all football leagues are created equal. My boys play in a league that definitely puts their players safety first. All of our coaches are heads up certified. They spend hours obtaining this certification to be able to teach the proper tackling technique to our players. I have received several inquiries in my position as registrar specifically questioning this. Parents get a sense of relief when I tell them "yes". As a result, we have had ZERO concussions in the four seasons that I have been a part of the league. I take that back. One little boy got one at school and had to sit out several games. You see? Not even on the football field. Concussions can happen anywhere.
- Hard working boys. Come August, my boys practice five days a week, two hours a day. Rain or shine. As a result, they have learned that if you want something in life you have to work hard to get it. Wins don't come easy. You have to shed sweat and tears.
- There is definitely no I in team. Every single position in football is important. Every single one. From the center, to the kicker, to the offensive line. If the ball is not snapped correctly, the quarterback will not get it. If the O-line doesn't hold their block, our QB will be sacked, which means he can't hand the ball to the running back or pass it to the wide receiver for the touchdown. No one player is more special than the other. I like that. I really do.
- Life long friends. I've said it once and I'll say it again. There are no mamas like football mamas. They are the realest group of women I have ever met. Of course, I think it takes a special type of mama to let their child play tackle football anyway. None of them try to portray that picture perfect life. They all have issues, just like the rest of us. And they aren't afraid to say it. I can honestly say that I have formed closer, stronger relationships with them than some of my friends that I have known for 10 plus years.
- Football is family. Period. We all look out for one another. Can't get your child to practice? Don't worry, we'll pick him up. Didn't take anything out for dinner? Let's order post-practice pizza. Forget to send your child with a check on picture day? No worries. I have my checkbook with me. Unable to get your child to a game that is 40 minutes away due to a conflict in your schedule? I'll get him. I'll be on that side anyway picking up Bobby and Joe. Your child outgrow his cleats in the blink of an eye? He can have Billy's. We just got him a new pair. These are all true scenarios that I have witnessed with my own two eyes. I have never seen anything quite as amazing. The boys on the team are more than teammates, they're brothers.
These are just a few of the things that I have both gained and learned from my four seasons as a football mama. I could go on for days. For these reasons and so many more, I am forever thankful for giving organized tackle football the chance. And I would encourage all of you that may be on the fence, to give it a try as well. I promise you won't regret it.
Confessions of a sports mama blog.