Let Them Be Kids

If your kids have ever been in sports, I’m sure you’ve seen parents that maybe take 6 year old soccer just a little too seriously. I’ve always tried really hard not to be that mom. I’m super competitive and I want my kids to do their best, but I understand that they can’t always win or always be on the best team. Most of the time. However, I would never, in my wildest dreams, imagine calling out a league that my child was participating in because something didn’t work out in their favor. Which leads me to the background of this post.

Our football program also runs a youth flag football program. The teams are broken down by grade and school and they play each other’s grade-level teams. They’re half field games on our college field, flag rules and the coaches and refs are our freshman players. Parents pay to enroll their kids, but it’s also a fundraiser for our scholarship program so it’s an important part of what we’re doing on multiple fronts. It’s great for the kids, big and small, and it’s a fun afternoon for the parents. This past weekend was week 3 and so far, very few hiccups have happened. A couple of jerseys didn’t find their owners right away and a coach here and there has been late, but the games have gone without a hitch, only a couple of minor injuries (first and second graders are as graceful as a baby deer on ice skates sometimes!) and overall, it’s been a great 3 weeks. Until today. We have a Facebook page to keep the parents informed and post photos, scores, updates and other info. I post scores from the games on Sunday nights. This week, I forgot. I remembered it last night, after working all day, soccer practice, play auditions, running through the rain to grab take out dinner and finally settling on the couch at about 8:30. I input the scores and went on about my night. This morning, I awoke to a NASTY comment from a parent. He was upset about a call during his son’s game, which his son’s team ultimately lost. I replied, nicely, that he needed to bring these things to our attention when the problem arises so we can take care of it and please not wait 2 days. He responded with more anger and nonsense, which triggered other parents to post, in our defense, that there was no way for everyone to see everything. This gentlemen was insisting that I should have noticed this particular play. What he doesn’t realize is on any given Sunday, there are 207 kids, 60 of our players and who knows how many parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, etc. on our field. I’m lucky if I remember MY name by the end, let alone a single play during a game.

Now, do I think he should apologize? I think it would teach his son a great deal if he did. Do I expect it? No. In 5 years of doing this, he’s certainly not the first parent who has taken exception to Little Johnny’s team not winning something. However, he crossed a line by ripping his son’s coaches and the ref. These are 18 and 19 year old kids. As much as we would like to say they’re adults, they are tall, hairy children. And they’re volunteering their time, taking away from their studies (or XBox playing, or sleeping…) to coach these kids. If they made a bad call, that’s unfortunate. If they got something wrong, that’s also unfortunate. However, I would hazard a guess that this man, at some point in his life, has gotten something wrong. And if he hasn’t, his behavior here should be a learning tool for him because he is certainly in the wrong today.

My point to this post, which is probably lost in my storytelling, is that at some point, kids deserve to just be kids. The little guy in this scenario is in 1st grade, which makes him the ripe old age of 6 or 7 years old. If his team loses a game or two, is it really the end of the world? Is his varsity coach going to stand in front of him with a clipboard when he’s in high school and say, “Well, son….I’d love to give you this starting job, but I see here that your flag football team lost a game when you were 7, so I have to leave you on the bench?” No. Of course not. So parents, coaches, team moms, whoever is reading this; please. I implore upon you, just let your kids be kids. Let them learn to win AND lose graciously. They’ll thank you for it later.

It’s Baaaaaaccccck!

Happy College Football season everyone!!!

Wow, last night was incredible! College football on all night long, tons of story lines and what a thrill to see someone we used to coach with on a big time, SEC sideline!! I’m so proud of he and his family for their dedication!! I still get goosebumps thinking of our first glimpse of him, staring studiously at a play sheet, headset perched atop his perfectly gelled hair and us scrambling like maniacs for the remote to pause and rewind, just to make sure we were seeing who we thought we were seeing. Maybe that will be us some day, our friends diving for remotes, sending texts that they know we won’t see for hours, calling other friends and saying, “Did you see that?! ESPN, he’s on ESP FREAKING N!” At least that’s how the conversation went in our house last night! 😉 

Although my coach doesn’t kick off for another week (this will be the longest week EVER), there’s another tradition starting in our house tonight; Friday Night Date Night. My coach is the local recruiting coordinator so that means while other coaches are putting the finishing touches on game plans, curling up to watch movies with their families, making their own recruiting calls or enjoying a much deserved night out, we are driving to local games. Some of them are easy to get to since our college rents the field out to the two local high schools, and others are quite the drive. Tonight we’re staying close; only to the next town over. Some nights we drive an hour or more to see 9 man football (yes, it exists!). Truth be told, those are the best games. Most of those kids will never play beyond high school so they leave it all on the field, every down, every game. The entire town turns out for the games as do most of the visiting teams’ town. Sometimes even the opposing sheriff stops by, which always prompts someone to joke about robbing the local bar, liquor store, etc., which is usually met with nothing but laughs because everyone knows that nobody is left in town anyway. Programs are almost always free, candy is still $.25, everybody says hello to you and word spreads fast that a college coach is somewhere in the crowd. We’re not hard to spot. We’re the only people the entire town doesn’t already know and we’re usually dressed in something from our college. By the time we make it to the sidelines, our daughters have already made new friends and are off playing somewhere in a town I don’t live in with people I’ve never met, yet I have fewer reservations about that than I do letting them walk to the school in our neighborhood alone on a Saturday afternoon. 

My coach always makes it a point to go talk to the coaches from both teams after the game, regardless of whether or not he plans to recruit any of their kids. He wants them to at least know he was there and say hello. The players are usually heading to the bus or locker room (or walking back to the high school, depending on which town we’re in) but they seem to walk a little slower when they see my husband coming in that college visor and jacket. It’s not just a PR move, either. Some of the best kids on our team historically have come from small towns that nobody has ever heard of. That was before we were an NCAA school, before the coaching staff knew what a JUCO transfer meant and before our school was internationally known as a topflight engineering school. To say things have changed is an understatement. But you cannot forget your roots. There is talent everywhere.

My girlfriends all laugh at me when I tell them what my date night consists of. Usually a concession stand hot dog, or hot chocolate depending on how cold it gets, a small town diner for dinner if we get lucky and arrive before the game. If we don’t get there early enough you would be surprised how many gas stations in the middle of nowhere have amazing sandwiches after everything is closed! What they don’t see is the time our family gets in the car. The memories my girls are forming that very few kids in the world will be able to say they have, the conversations that happen on the way to and from the games. Some weeks, it’s the only uninterrupted time we get as a family. We catch up on our weeks, fill each other in on the things we’ve all missed or sometimes we just tell silly stories and jokes and enjoy each other. No television, no social media, just family time. It’s time I know I won’t always have and it’s time I know is far too precious. So tonight, I will enjoy whatever crazy dinner I get, I’ll watch with great intensity the young men playing before me whom I have never met and I will settle in to the comfortable Friday Night Date Night routine that I’ve missed.

Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend, everyone! Be blessed!

Losing. In Real Life.

Sports is an AMAZING distraction. For a lot of people it’s a few hours in a week where you can kick back, relax, spend time with friends and family and cheer on your teams or root against your rivals. It takes you away from the pressure and stress of everyday life, work, family things, etc. But sometimes things happen that nothing can fix. No distraction is enough to recharge the batteries, give you new perspective or relax you.

2 weeks ago, my Thursday started out very normally. I had played rec league softball the night before, chatted with my teammates and some of our spouses. Specifically, I play with 2 ladies whom I have known a good number of years. One of their husbands was there and we had a fun chat about camping, being adults, reminiscing about our younger years, just talking. We had all gone our separate ways and the next day, we all went about our business. At about 8:45 am, I got a call that would rock me to my core and literally change my life. My beautiful friend’s 31 year old husband was gone. He had gone to bed and never woken up. I was stunned. Initially, I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t, I had JUST seen this man! He was fine! 31 year olds don’t just not wake up. It HAD to be a mistake. As the day wore on and the reality of things sunk in, I sat at my desk and thought. I cried. I prayed. I called my husband and did all 3. As more details emerged, it was obvious that my friend was in a very bad place. Her husband had been their financial manager of their home and their finances were a mess. Their life insurance had just lapsed, she had nothing in savings and she was now a single mother to 4 children, 1 of whom is a newborn. Worse yet, she was a stay at home mother which meant their income and insurance had gone away with the death of her husband. A group of us immediately rallied around her, setting up a fundraising website, organizing a meal train, child care, yard work and housecleaning, whatever she needed. As word spread of the tragedy, support began to pour in for she and her children. It was overwhelming to see how people we had grown up with, worked with, worshiped with banded together with perfect strangers, friends of friends, co-workers of friends and friends of co-workers of friends to pick them up when they were down. We buried that amazing man on a warm July day in a church full to standing room only. He was so very loved. He is STILL so very loved.

In an instant, a family is forever changed. But it goes deeper than that. Many of us have gone and purchased life insurance policies, my husband and I are taking a VERY hard look at our own finances and there is a sense of closeness among my friends that I’ve never felt before. I had an opportunity a midst all of this to work on some football stuff for the upcoming season and it was so nice to get away from the sadness and the stress. And then I felt guilty because I CAN escape. My friend and her kids will never escape. This is their new reality. So I’ve promised to be there for them however I can. It’s all I can do…I can’t bring their husband and father back and God knows I would if I could. This is one thing that sports can’t heal. But it can bring some sense of normalcy back, if even for a short time.

Here is what I would ask, dear readers: Tonight, before bed, hug your spouse/partner/significant other. Kiss them, tell them you love them. Spend an extra couple of minutes with them. And pray for my friend and her children. Thank you, all.

Wedding “Season”

Well folks, summer is officially upon us! School is out, camps are gearing up, summer workouts have been distributed and coaches and players are scattered all over the country. One of the other ways I can tell it’s summertime is the amount of wedding invitations covering my refrigerator! 2 short years ago, mine was one of them. I’m going to go out on a limb and say mine was probably pretty easy for people to spot too! I never imagined myself as a non traditional wedding person. I always imagined my wedding in a church or outside with chairs lining the aisles, flowers down the walkway and either cute pew bows or mason jars with tealights adorning the way to meet my nervous, handsome almost-husband. Then I got engaged to a coach! Now, don’t get me wrong, our wedding day was the most magical, most amazing day of my life. I wouldn’t change one single thing about it. Well, maybe one. We didn’t do reveal pictures, where he sees me for the first time. But that’s okay, I can live without those considering how amazing the rest of our day went.

Let me back up. Coach and I were engaged in February of 2011 and didn’t get married until June of 2012. Lots of time to plan, right? Not when you lose 4 months to football!! And it did NOT help that everywhere I thought would be perfect was out of this world expensive. Seriously, how does anyone afford these places?! Just as I was getting good and discouraged, my hubby came up with a solution….get married on the football field! My reaction? Um, no. Who does that? Who thinks that’s even KIND of cool? Nope. Not happening. So we went back to doing it my way and the clock kept ticking. We had an engagement party, set a date, sent save the dates…no venue. I didn’t want to decide on dresses or suits for the wedding party until we found a venue and forget about flowers or anything else. I was getting desperate. Finally one day I decided to see if there was ANY way I could make a wedding work on a football field work, just so I could shut my fiance up about it. Turns out, it’s not such a crazy idea! I didn’t find as much as I would have if I was getting married on a beach or in a “normal” location, but then I started to get excited….if we had a unique location….I could do unique things! I begrudgingly admitted to my then-fiance that he was right, it wouldn’t be so bad and instantly became “the coolest wife ever!”

After I stopped being stubborn and started thinking outside the box, planning got SO much easier. I found my dress almost immediately (PRO TIP FOR BRIDES TO BE: Don’t be afraid to get creative here! I got a bridesmaids dress, ordered it in white and ordered the sash that came with it in one of our wedding colors. Total cost with alterations: $220!!), coordinated the wedding party and started on the detail ends. We ended up having a friend who is crafty make our invites. They looked like game tickets, complete with a perforated edge. Then, we made up a “season ticket” type letter that outlined the wedding day schedule and read like the type of letter you get with season tickets. Those were HUGELY popular among our friends. The most-heard reaction to them? “Yep, this is SO you guys!” And honestly, your wedding is supposed to be about YOU as a couple so that was the greatest compliment we could have gotten! We mixed in other details as well; the ring bearer carried a football (because I forgot to buy a pillow), we got married smack on the 50 yard line with chairs and, yes, benches serving as guest seating and we even got ready inside the locker room. Our photographer took my cue and most of our pictures tie in with our theme; from the guys down in a 3 pt stance to us ladies holding “Team Bride” signs and megaphones.

We carried the theme into our reception where an amazing baker friend of mine made us a 3 tier cake with a scoreboard, football field and a baseball on top (coach used to be a baseball coach) and it all looked like it was floating on a bat. All of which was edible. Don’t ask me how it tasted, I forgot to eat any!! Our centerpieces were whiteboards with football plays drawn up on them and we ran through a paper banner that my bridesmaids surprised us with the day of the wedding. SO many little details that made our day amazing, and I’m sure I’m missing a TON. The best part was we asked so many of our friends to be a part of our day. My friend the baker, one of my husbands oldest friends (and fellow coach!) married us, his former quarter back was our DJ, another friend catered, my friend drove 12 hours to be our photographer….the list goes on.

So for any of you brides (or grooms) to be who are serious sports fans but who are worried about bucking traditions, my advice to you is to BUCK. My wedding day was NOTHING like I had imagined it was going to be growing up. And I am SO glad it wasn’t. It was by far the best day of our lives together and to this day 2 years later, our friends still compliment us and talk about it. Sports themed or traditional, that day is YOUR day. Make it the most magical day of your lives!!

The Case for Honesty

A story has come out in the past day or so that can serve as a good reminder for anybody in any profession: Don’t lie on you resume. For those who have a life and don’t eat, sleep and drink sports, you can find the story of college basketball coach Steve Masiello here. Now, it’s important to note that we don’t have Coach Masiello’s side of the story yet, so I hate to drag a good man’s name through the mud. However, the facts in this instance seem fairly cut and dry. The obvious questions, of course, is why? Why would a coach need or want to lie on his resume? I can tell you why; coaching is a TOUGH gig. It’s cutthroat, it’s stressful and it is absolutely next man up. If you can’t handle the job, if you don’t exactly fill the needs of the position, there are 5 more guys waiting for it. I can see a few scenarios here. The most obvious being he really wanted a job at Louisville under Coach Rick Petino and said he graduated to make his resume look better. Is it wrong? Of course. Can I see exactly why he did it? Yup. Coach Masiello had played for Coach Petino and let’s face it, Petino can coach. If you want to go places, you find the Petino’s, the coach K’s, and the Callipari’s of the basketball world and you learn everything you can from them. It worked too, because Coach Masiello is 60-39 after 3 years as head coach at Manhattan and even got the virtually unknown team into the NCAA Tournament this year. Of course, this is all speculation. The case can also be made that Manhattan should have checked his credentials a little closer and this would have all been avoided.

Obviously, this is a problem for Steve Masiello. It’s yet to be determined if Manhattan is going to take him back. Heck, he might not even qualify for the job he’s held since 2011 anymore! He already said good bye to his players and packed his things. He would have to face the players, their families, the administration and his fans, all of whom probably wonder how much they can trust Coach now that this has come to light. How can a coach tell his players to live with honesty, integrity and do the right thing when it looks at this moment like he has done anything but for the last almost decade. By all accounts, he is a great coach. He’s learned under some of the best. It would be a shame to see such a bright future to come to such an ending. I have no doubt that whatever his motivation was for lying on his resume, Coach Masiello doesn’t think it was worth it today. This is a good lesson for everyone. Most of us won’t fall from grace as publicly as Steve Masiello, but the lesson is the same. Just be honest. If you’re honest, you don’t have to keep track of your lies. 

March Madness

I was planning on making this blog all about Spring Football practices and all the fun that goes with it. The warmer weather, longer days, spending time outside, some Spring Game tailgating tips, etc. Then our football team spent morning workouts outside in the snow and that kind of dampened my spirits. As I type this, there is a Dodge Challenger trying to get up the hill out my window. It’s not going well for him. The sad part is the snow is only now starting to stick and this hill isn’t THAT steep. Good luck, friend! 🙂 

So, back to the post. Since it’s decidedly NOT spring football weather outside today, I thought I would change it up. Another passion in our house is the NCAA Basketball Tournament, known as March Madness by most. This year has been particularly brutal if you’re a high seed. I’m sure if you follow the tournament or tried your luck at winning a billion dollars from Mr. Buffett, you know how this tournament is unfolding. Madness doesn’t come close to describing what’s going on. Ratings are through the roof, profits for the tournament are up and money is rolling in. As I was watching Duke lose to Mercer on Friday (know where Mercer is? I didn’t. I had to look it up. The Mercer Bears hail from Macon, Georgia. The more you know….) someone who was also watching the end of the game made a comment. He said, “It’s tough to remember that these are kids.” It was an offhand, almost afterthought comment but it gave me pause. We have this discussion during football season about a half dozen times a season. Especially when the major football conferences head toward post season play. People are shocked when this defensive back or that guard gets arrested for something stupid, or gets suspended for a half for a violation of team rules. These kids are just that….KIDS. They usually come to school at 18, some of them have never been away from home and now you’re thrusting them into (in the case of a major DI program) a HUGE spotlight and expecting them to never screw up. That pressure is unimaginable. Most people I know couldn’t handle it, myself included. If I had lived my life under a microscope and had people dissecting every bad decision I made at 18….well, let’s just say they would have had plenty to talk about!! Whether it’s basketball, football or some other sport, these are children. Legally, they’re adults, but they are really only big children. Some of them grow up fast. Can you imagine playing for an NCAA Championship at 21, having thousands of fans screaming for or at you, jugging practice and classes, being known everywhere you go, being criticized for every mistake you make? Wow. No thank you. I get annoyed when I’m stopping at the store for milk and someone asks me how the team looks if I’m in a hurry, there is no way I could handle what these kids do. 

So what is the Madness in all of this? The heart pounding finishes, the buzzer beaters, the last second put backs, watching the post game victory dances or the fact that we are entrusting a multi-billion dollar industry to a bunch of teenage kids who, to this point, have basically made one major life decision. They know (or should) what they’re getting into, I get that argument. They shouldn’t sign with the Kentuckys and Dukes of the world if they aren’t ready for the pressure, I get that too. But let’s not forget as we watch the Madness unfold, for every jubilant locker room and charged fan base, there are tears being shed and jerseys being put away for the final time by a 4th year senior whose one goal in life was to play college basketball. He’s putting that dream to bed for the final time today and entering the “real world” with the rest of us. And yes, he’s still, more or less, just a kid. 

It’s That Time…..

It’s almost here, folks!! SPRING!! With it means flowers blooming, trees budding, sun, warm weather and, of course SPRING BALL!! Whether it’s Spring Training in baseball or your local college team knocking off some mothballs after a long (for some of us, it’s felt REALLY long) winter, we are officially in countdown mode!! With spring comes something else in college football family land….moving. Coaches are nomadic by profession and, by extension, so are their families. We lost a fabulous coach this offseason to a much larger, much more recognized school. His wife is here until the summer and then she too is on her way to bigger and better things. While I will miss them immensely, it got me thinking. This is scary. My husband and I don’t have a traditional relationship. I met him AFTER he began coaching. I owned my own home and we’ve been fortunate to be in one place for quite some time. Despite being let go when our former head coach retired, he was quickly picked up by the new staff and retained so moving has not been an issue for us yet. That brings me to the point of this blog:

HOLY CRAP, WE HAVE STUFF!!

If you’ve lived in one place for more than 5 minutes and have kids, you probably have stuff too. Lots and lots of stuff. I was looking around recently and realized I need to do some serious spring cleaning. We still have crib sets from my daughters when they were babies. They are now 6 and almost 9. Pretty sure I don’t need those anymore….why I’ve held onto them so long is a mystery but one thing I know is that they can’t stay any longer. No, we’re not moving (I don’t think) but when we do, I will most likely be flying solo. Do I want to pack up 9 years’ worth of clutter, art projects, old blankets and the hodgepodge of dishes we own? Nope. Sure don’t. As I was pondering this fact, a friend of mine posted a link to her Facebook that seemingly answered a lot of my questions. It’s called the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge and it looks easy enough, even for someone as busy as I am. The premise is, you pick one spot per day for 40 days and de-clutter it. It can be a drawer, a shelf, an entire room, your freezer, the pantry, whatever you want. And it can be any size bag from a grocery store plastic bag to a heavy-duty contractor’s bag. There is no set rule as to what you have to do with the stuff as long as it leaves your house. I know exactly where I’m going to start. I’ve been sorting clothes and old toys for an upcoming consignment sale and as of now, they’re kind of tossed into a corner. I have a perfectly good Rubbermaid container that’s currently empty but I haven’t taken the time to sort the items into it. I now have a project for tonight! The blog I’m going to link to even has a daily checklist to keep you on track and a Facebook “support group” to join. I know I’m in and hopefully by the time our Spring game rolls around, my house will no longer be the main source of stress in my world! Here is the blog. Happy de-cluttering!!

http://www.whitehouseblackshutters.com/40-bags-in-40-days-2014/