Family Politics and Football

 

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Most coaching families get a pass on family politics on account of they don’t live near family. Don’t get me wrong, there are PLENTY of politics within the team family and the coaching family, but if you’ve ever navigated family politics, those are the absolute worst. While the Coach and I are SO blessed to be able to coach in our hometown, it has it’s occasional downsides. One of them is the proximity to family drama.

Recently, we had a family member who had a health crisis. A fairly severe one at that, but they were moved to a much better medical facility several hours away and had wonderful doctors. This person also has a spouse, several adult children and a teenager at home. The spouse, who is my sibling, was understandably worried and upset during this ordeal. They have some other job change things and some family issues of their own in this mess, so the stress levels were quite high. Last week, my in-law had surgery and our niece gave birth to a little boy. I was texting my sibling getting updates on how the surgery was going and mentioned the latest news I had on the baby. BAM. Never heard from them again. Now my updates are coming from Facebook, texts and calls are going unanswered and my dad hasn’t even heard from them. Today, there was a Facebook post letting everyone know they’re home and that this experience has shown them “who their true friends and family members are.” Well then.

Here is where my snarky ecard comes in. In a 1:30 am phone call from my sibling, it was suggested but not outright asked that I should travel to where they live, about 7 hours away, and care for the house, help get it ready to sell and make sure the teenager got to school. When I didn’t take the bait, things got testy. I finally explained that I can’t just pack up, leave for 2 weeks and expect that things will be normal in my world. My husband works, no joke here, over 100 hours a week. He goes in for practice twice a week at 5:00 am and most nights, only comes home long enough to see our girls off to bed before he goes back to finalize the next day’s practice scripts. How is he supposed to manage that, get our children off to school, soccer, gymnastics and all the other things that occur during a day? It’s simply not fair and completely unreasonable to ask him to shoulder that load. Likewise, I couldn’t take my children out of school for 2 weeks, have them fall behind and miss their activities. And then there’s the tiny matter of my job and the fact that my boss and his wife are due any second with their first child. Couple my perceived uncaring attitude about their situation and the faux pas of updating the baby news last week, and I’m sure that’s why nobody has heard from them, save for a few Facebook updates. I could go on and on about why this frustrates me, but I think you get the hint. I hope you can also pick up the sarcasm in some of this. 😉

So, friends, if you find yourself in the family drama situation, take a deep breath. Understand that most people, even family, don’t/can’t understand what we do week in and week out. Don’t take it personally if they get offended because girls’ weekends and fall weddings take a backseat to tailgates and soccer games. It’s part of life. Prioritizing family events (even if it’s not blood family) over the other stuff doesn’t make you a bad friend, it makes you a good wife and parent. And, at the end of the day, you can only do so much before you’re a raving crazy lady who is so stressed and overwhelmed that you give yourself a breakdown. Take it from me, that is NOT a fun place to be! This weekend, take a minute, smell the fall air, take walk, kick around some leaves and just enjoy what God has given you. Have a blessed weekend, all!!

PS, that last paragraph was as much a pep talk for me as it was for y’all! 😉

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!

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. 

Being Mom

I’ve written this blog from the point of view of a sports wife because I think it’s a side that doesn’t get enough attention. Our role is ever-changing and NEVER boring! Today, I get to write from the mom’s perspective. Our youngest daughter is preparing for her first gymnastics meet ever. We started her in gymnastics when she was 3, at the persistence of my husband’s grandmother. Sadly, she did not live to see her great granddaughter’s love of the sport, but we always remind her of that connection. Gram saw real potential and talent in her and was so excited when we told her she would be starting her lessons. I know she’s watching, but we wish she was here.

As my daughter has been working on her routines over the last many weeks, I have been in awe over how hard she has been working and how much determination she has. She just turned 6 and has already been invited to compete. I had reservations at first, because in my eyes she’s still my baby. She begged me to let her compete and I made her promise that if we decided it was too much, that she would back off. I have not regretted allowing her to pursue her dream. I didn’t have a clue what I wanted at 6 years old. She does. She wants to make her gym’s TOPS program and eventually, earn a spot to train at the US Olympic facility in Texas. She knows this at 6. It blows me away how grown up she can be. And then she tells a joke she learned at school and launches into a 10 minute giggle fit and I remember that yep, she’s STILL only 6!!

Now that the meet is only a couple of days away, I am getting nervous. I wonder if this is how our football moms feel. I’m making a mental checklist of things I need to remember (Team leo, check! Warm ups, check!), obsessing over what I need to do at home to make the place look somewhat presentable for my dad who is going to check on our animals and reminding myself that we’re only going to be gone overnight, I shouldn’t freak out this much. 🙂 It’s so much harder to be the mom. As the wife, I know what preparation has gone into things, I have listened to the scouting report all week and although they are like my boys, they are not MY boys. This is a totally different feeling. It’s scary but it’s exciting. I’m trying to embrace it and enjoy it and NOT panic. 🙂