How Do Mom’s Survive Recruiting?

12004008_1229294673762843_1963274122960026051_n“Gentlemen, it is better to die a small boy than to fumble this football.” -John Heisman

Football, football, football…

It’s all we talk about in the Keller house besides Jesus and cheerleading.

That’s because it’s recruiting season of my son’s senior year. And truthfully, it’s not as much fun as I thought it would be. It’s actually hard work and I’m not even the one playing a full contact sport.

Recruiting is stressful and nail-biting. Your kid get’s an offer from a school(s) and you feel so blessed. But then there are these “reach” schools lingering around dropping seductive hints. And they are the “wow” schools that dazzle and woo, but they don’t pull the plug and offer until they have to.

These are moments where you throw up your hands and say “screw that school” only to get a phone call from the coach fifteen minutes later to affirm their interest and then you love them all over again.

It’s like a bad dating relationship. You wait by the phone and they call just enough to get you all hot and bothered.

Okay, I know, I talk about my kid and recruiting in “we” terminology. Clearly I self-identify with my child. I took the helicopter parent test and failed. So now I just own it. Truthfully, I think every football parent heavily invested in their child thinks in terms of “we” instead of “he”–but that’s another blog.

The Unofficial Visit

So, this weekend my kid has a recruiting trip planned.  It’s officially unofficial.  So the university can only provide us with tickets to the game and other “free” amusements. Sadly for my kid, I’m coming along with his five-year-old sister. We are like the antithesis of cool.

When I asked my son what the game day will look like, he said it involved:

  1. A tour of the campus possibly hosted by sorority girls (come again?)
  2. Time meeting the players and coaches
  3. Maybe a side-line pass?  (One for mom and little sis too?)
  4. Seats  (hoping for 50 yard line)
  5. And finally…”maybe some of the players could take me out after the game and show me around…please mom?”

Clearly, they are trying to woo the son not the mother because I’m thinking more along the lines of:

  1. Campus Crusade for Christ ladies school tour (Hottest is modest, baby!)
  2. A time to talk discipline and study plans with the coaches
  3. The football team job placement program after graduation
  4. After-party worship concert praising Jesus for a big win.
  5. Free Kool-Aid and cookies served to potential recruits

Oh boy, who knew when I signed up my kid at age 7 for tackle football I would be here?

But honestly, the hardest part of recruiting is not the reality of sorority girls and parties, or the waiting, or the endless college applications, it’s the constant reminder of minutes slipping by.

Every time a coach calls (nightly) I am reminded my kid is leaving soon.  Some parents “Yee Haw,” but I am more of a “Boo-Hoo” mom.

I confess I am happy and sad.  I’m anxious for me but thrilled for him.  Sometimes I want to shake this kid and force him to seize these crazy opportunities and go to the Ivy League, even if its far away, and then I change my mind two seconds later. I’m up and I’m down emotionally depending on the day. I lie in bed at night and hear him downstairs studying and I silently weep, knowing this little boy who changed my life and made me a mommy is packing up his room soon–and I can’t possibly take down the adorable football fathead of him.  I can’t.  I just can’t!

How does this joy and sorrow live side by side?  Hey kid, thanks for getting a football scholarship and saving me money, but maybe I could pay to have you a little closer to home?  Just kidding.  Not.

How do mom’s do this?  Is there a support network?  I want to hold onto him forever but know he’s ready to go and would resent me if I tried.

AHHHH!!!  Letting go sucks!

When I take the time to pray about this and surrender to God I am reminded of a few simple things.  Here is the cry of my heart…

The Football Mama’s Prayer

Jesus, help me let go!  I know I am merely a steward of this amazingly athletically gifted child who is about ready to launch into adulthood. I thank you for every minute with him.  For the tantrums and blond curls, chubby cheeks and endless stinky football pads.  I trust that I raised him to the best of my ability and it’s time let him go with a smile and an “‘atta boy!” and let you take over.  The best school for my kid is the one that you lead him to–not me.  I pray for wisdom in his choice.

I pray that football will be an outlet and a joy–not a job or a chore–because it’s been his passion since he can remember. I pray he stays sound in both body and mind and that you protect his physically, emotionally and spiritually. I also pray he meets a nice girl who loves you (and oh by the way, who grew up on the West Coast).  I pray for his professors and peers and dorm mate, and that he is challenged to grow and push past his limits. I ask for courage and strength for my boy as he faces adversity and meets them head on. I surrender this young man to you Jesus and I thank you for football because this game changed both our lives.  Amen.

Any advice or prayers, either on recruiting or letting go of my kid is welcome! 

–Samantha

 

AAAHHH! My Son Brought a Girl Home!

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I saw lots of adorable scarecrows costumes this Halloween—dainty Dorothy’s with a Toto peeping from a basket spilling over with candy—and of course, spooky green witches—but not once did I encounter my favorite character—the cowardly lion.

In all honesty, I believe it’s the costume that best represents us all—a fearful people—raging and roaring in image management as we tremble in our boots and hope no one see through us.

We have moments of glory where we roar our terrible roars and knash our terrible teeth, and then reality rears its ugly head and we go back to worrying about the bills and our health, Obamacare and North Korea, our marriages, teenagers, and a million other concerns.

Fear steals our joy and anxiety makes tyrants of all, but courage—glorious courage—when it breaks through—shines like the light of a million stars.

I saw a glimpse of a courageous little lion stepping out of her comfort zone and into bravery the other night.

On Halloween evening, a friend of Kyle’s—a specific Girl friend stopped by the house to meet us.  The beautiful young lady, accompanied by a friend and her mom, walked up to the door and introduced herself.

Grace and Kyle—while not officially dating—have a strong fondness for each other.  I can see the sparkle in her eyes when she looks at my son.  At the Varsity football games, when they call his name over the loud-speaker for a tackle, she squeals with delight.  She wears his number #34 proudly on her cheek and she even dressed in one of old jerseys for Halloween. 

They are sweet together—it’s high emotion and furious texting and the blood racing tingles of high school romance. 

And to their benefit, these two are trying to navigate the space of family, church, age-appropriateness and really liking each other in a God honoring way

So what was so scary to Grace?  Apparently us. 

Meeting the parent’s—the scary dating experts—the pastor and the blogger—the mom of her crush—were all just terrifying to the poor girl.

I can’t imagine how awkward it was for her.  I was dressed as a saloon girl and Tim was a cowboy.  Our porch was covered in candles, strobe lights, pumpkins, bats and thumping ghoulie tunes.  Kids and neighbors poured over our walkway. 

It was funny way to meet the first girl he’s ever brought home—strangely formal, bizarre, and so endearing.

But I knew if Kyle was making the effort to include us we’d better pay attention.

And so little Grace—the competitive gymnast with the strawberry blond hair—bucked up, put on her big girl pants and braved the parents. 

Although I don’t know her very well and I’m not sure I’m ready for dating, I like how Grace operates. 

Fear does not define her.  She moved at the scary ‘meet the parents “moment with quaking feet and a fluttering heart, (our son told us this all later) but the point is she moved.  She planted those feet on our porch and stuck out her hand with a smile.

Grace defined her circumstances instead of letting her fear (or circumstances) define her.

The cowardly lion ends up learning courage because there is something MORE important enough in his life than the fear to make it worth the frightening journey.

And it makes this mama smile to think my son was the important thing that motivated her to be brave. 

Is there something scary or overwhelming in your life where you need an extra dose of courage?

Cheer Bullies

Few things in life are all black or white –all good or all bad.

Most events have some redeeming factor or lesson to apply. Grace weasels its way in and finds the light in the darkest of nights.

But occasionally, evil rears its ugly head and I am left scratching my noggin in befuddlement.

Where is the good in this? What positive can I squeeze out of a rotten maggot infested dead rabbit?

(ahhh…but that’s another story about a rancid trashcan and a rabbit that croaked in my yard and an angry ex-husband who found the dead rabbit in the rancid trashcan because his wife didn’t know that dead rabbits need to go in other people’s trashcans)

Anyway, sometimes I ask myself, God, what the (insert an appropiately lame Christian bad word) was that sucker punch all about?

This was the question I asked myself as I left a youth football and cheer board meeting last night weeping.

Yes, weeping.

I walked through a senior center parking lot that lasted for miles and miles gulping and sobbing from a public beratement worthy of Paul and the Sanhedrin (before he turned good…when he still worked for the Dark Side).

And I asked myself once again, “What the hell is wrong with people?”

Years ago I was warned (by a wise mommy mentor) there are a few areas in life where people use unbridled power to manipulate and throw their weight around like the Patriots offensive line.

“Is it Washington politics?” I naively inquired.

“No Sam, its YOUTH SPORTS. Take heed to my words young lass and beware!”

I nodded at the wise sage and never forgot her words. And for years, playing for the Irvine Chargers and for Santa Margarita Pop Warner I had nothing but INCREDIBLE coaches, teams and experiences in football and cheerleading.

I thought I was one of the lucky ones. Sure there were the occasional squabbles and snarky remarks among parents, but overall we were tremendously blessed.

But last night those words came back to haunt me.

This year my daughter Faith was signed up for her second year to cheer for the Cowboys. Last year, her team competed in Nationals and she had a mostly positive experience. I had some concerns with extremely poor orginization within the league (not knowing the time of games until the day before…which will drive a mother of three CRAZY), but I tried to let the bad stuff go and focus on the fun. I helped out as team mom, hosted parties and provided a practice spot for the team (at no cost) at our church as a community outreach to save the league money. My husband and I went out of our way at every turn to support our girl and her team at every endeavor.

We were invested in the team like all parents who think their kids are AWESOME!

But this year things started off a little shakier.

The two oldest football teams –frustrated with the league took their ENTIRE groups of boys to another league. This left a gaping spot for the older girls.

There were no boys to cheer for in their age group.

My almost teen daughter would have to cheer for eight-year old boys.

And for a twelve-year-old girl this =MORTIFICATION.

Faith spent an entire night crying her eyes out. We asked her to pray and consider.

Then we got an e-mail saying her coach quit.

The game had changed. Faith tearfully asked if she could not cheer with this team.

She signed up to cheer for a MIDGET team but was faced with cheering for the MUNCHKINS.

I asked for a refund. Simple enough, right? I paid almost $400 and asked for my money back.

I was sent an e-mail saying I had to appear before the board.

Huh?

(Actually, I was sent five e mails with different times and dates and enough confusion to drive me crazy just regarding the board meeting)

So, I showed up at the firing squad (whoops –board meeting) where a group of YOUTH FOOTBALL Nazi’s terrorized me.

I was questioned, berated, interrogated and verbally beaten down to tears because I asked for a refund.

And then the questions arose as licked my wounded pride back at home?

Are the Cowboys in so much debt and disarray they can’t provide a refund for a kid who requested their money back over a month before practice started?

I was told “this is a business and we counted on your money.” “Even if kids get hurt we don’t provide a refund.” “Has your daughter been publicly shamed?”

My favorite was “How about a credit for next year?” –after I was already choking up. (like I wanted to come back and join this party again?)

And then like robots they repeated over and over a pre-planned message (clearly previously discussed) about what an honor it is to cheer for little boys almost half the age of my daughter.

And I understood why the two older teams picked up and left and took their boys with them. And why the Cowboys were allegedly kicked out of their previous league two years ago after a board member added seconds on the clock to overturn a game and let the Cowboys win.

Will somebody stop this reign of terror and stand up to these bullies?

I might have cried last night –but like little David facing Goliath, I’m just warming up my slingshot.

Have you had experience with youth sports?

The Habit of Excellence

“Excellence is not an act….but a habit.”
Aristotle

Thoroughly engaged in munching on a sloppy burrito, the group leader’s question caught me off guard.  “What are your New Year’s resolutions?”

I gulped and coughed on a chunk of chicken. My mind screeched, “NOOOOOOOO…….”

Strangely enough, I struggle with being put on the spot for “group sharing,” specifically in ministry groups where I randomly tag along with my husband just to get free Baja Fresh. 

I hate the stilted quasi-spiritual answers that ensue. 

No one wants to admit their true resolution is to lose weight or ditch the potty mouth.  It’s always things like, “I’m working on my spiritual disciplines, or trying to get in an extra two hours of Scripture memorization a day.”

Yeah, right! 

But now I was in over my head.  The question moved around the large table (actually two tables awkwardly shoved together as one) until it was my turn to share.

I mumbled something about being more present with my kiddo’s, an area God has (legitimately) been working on my heart for the last year, but the truth was I didn’t have any resolutions.  I barely made it through the holidays and then it was Kolby’s birthday and I haven’t had a minute to stop and reflect and consider any real life change.

But later, curled up with my books and journal I chewed on the resolution’s a bit more.  After catching up on some reading and e-mails, I dug out a series of articles my ex-husband sent me to motivate my son for football.  The articles –by Western Branch Head football Coach Greg Gibson were on excellence and something in my heart perked up at Coach Gibson’s approach to life..

Gibson wants his players to strive towards being an “11” for life.   Why stop at “10”?  I love this!

 He stresses the pursuit of excellence in all his players.  With teenagers, it’s hard to communicate this enough and it creates high expectations, but this high expectation also creates great young men when they rise to the occasion.  

(In a world full of entitled slackers, I couldn’t agree more.)

Coach Gibson proclaims:”We want to increase our excellence and reach our potential in every area.  We have to discover our individual identities, find our purpose, decide what we want to accomplish, and create a plan to achieve.”

“Executing a plan to reach our full potential takes a lot of preparation,” the coach stresses.   “We want to uncover all of the things that can help or hinder putting that plan into action.  The willingness to do whatever it takes to execute that plan will yield excellence, but it doesn’t just happen.  Achieving excellence requires a great deal of hard work.”

Coach Gibson’s instruction on pursuing excellence doesn’t start with playing the game on the football field.   It starts with playing the game of life.   It starts with how you treat yourself and how you treat those closest to you.

Gibson’s advice:  “Excellence means understanding the needs of everyone in the family and sacrificing the time and effort it takes to meet those needs.”

“Listening is an important skill and discipline. When we listen, we learn, and move out of our comfort zones and into the other person’s world.   We have to make the necessary sacrifices and develop the commitment, focus, and discipline it takes to build tremendous relationships in our own families.   I recommend my players craft a plan for excellence.

My New Year’s resolution for 2013?  I want to shoot for an “Excellent Approach” in all areas of my life –as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, writer, blogger, speaker and friend.

The Bible puts it this way…

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…”(Col. 3:23 NIV)

And I think I’ll start by using that new gym membership my sweetie got me, because I did an excellent job of polishing off a ton of sweets over the holiday season.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

 

Violent Hands

 

Monday night was a heart racy night for me.  I held my breath.  I tried to be calm, but the anticipation and anxiety of the awards ceremony was way too much drama for this mama.

Monday was the end-of-season football banquet for J Serra High School where my son Kyle plays on the freshmen team.

Kyle is a tight end and middle linebacker.  And although he scored about ten touchdowns over the season, it’s the defense that captures his heart.

One of his coaches’ told me in private, “Your boy has violent hands.  You can’t teach fierceness.  Either you’re born with it or not.  Kyle’s a playmaker.  He disrupts, he intercepts, he makes fumbles and quarterbacks run when they see him.”

Yep, that pretty much sums Kyle up.

When he was little he had an over-abundance of energy.  I took him to the pool or the park religiously to wear out the little tyke. 

Now Kyle always shared his toys.  He was gentle with girls and small children.  But woe to the boy child who stole from him, pushed or bullied.

That kid was going down.

I don’t know how many times I had to jump in the baby pool as my son confronted  a bully or an out of control water-gun shooter and knocked him on his butt.

Kyle was the Chuck Norris of the toddler set.  He was the defender of the weak.  He was also very difficult to peel off when he was tackling (I mean teaching) another kid a lesson.

Football was a Godsend.

He was seven years-old when he set foot on the field.  After the first week of full gear and contact he came to me with tears in his eyes.  “Mommy, thank you so much for letting me play football.  I get to hit people and its ok!  Thank you so much!”

You’re welcome?

Seven seasons later I sat next to this tall, muscular and mature young man at an extravagant awards dinner and held my breath as they called out names.

They announced the big awards last.  The suspense was killing me.  I sat there and thought, “Why am I so nervous?  Why is this so personal?  Why do I care so much about his success?”

I guess it’s just what football moms do!

This is the kid I’ve pushed up and down the street a thousand times in his Flintstone car to hear his giggle, the kid I’ve loved and battled with and washed a thousand stinky jersey’s for, this is the kid who is a gentle giant (off the field) with a wicked sense of humor.  This is the kid whose smile and soothing personality brighten every day…

I looked over at Tim and Brent.  They were sweating bullets too.  I smiled and laughed inside.  We all care so much about Kyle’s journey.

As the coach started talking about the last defensive award, I knew he was referring to my boy.  He mentioned how the quarterbacks at Orange Lutheran want nothing to do with this kid. (Kyle knocked both the starter and the second string QB’s out of the game).  He mentioned his ability to make magic on the field, his work ethic second to none and his leadership that set the tone for the entire team.

He paused and grinned at my boy, “The Defensive MVP Award goes to…Kyle Adams.”

Is it ok to thank Jesus for “violent hands?”

Trophy Child

 

Perusing through the bookstore, a catchy title caught my eye and I yelled for my husband.  There the two of us stood, mouths agape, as we stared at the cover of Trophy Child…and the parents that enable them.

The book had a cover of a sports star kid and his adoring parents fawning over him.

This book hit way too close to home –in an irritating and pissy sort of way.

I didn’t even want to pick it up.  I knew what it would say and I didn’t really want to hear it.

The truth is parents of kids who excel either in athletics or sports or even the arts DO treat their kids differently. 

I know this because I have two other kids along with my trophy child.

I’m certainly not spending a fortune on private coaches and speed training and all the little extras we do for Kyle on my other two.  To some extent I even expect Faith and Kolby to sacrifice for their brother. Our whole family is behind him and together with my ex-husband we are Team Kyle

I openly admit I give this kid special treatment.  I don’t wake up at the crack of dawn to make a hot meal for anyone in my family but my son.  We drive an extra distance to his private school. I run over to the school whenever he calls to bring him little things to make his life easier.  There are late-night runs to Sports Chalet and I help him with homework when he is too tired to hold up his head.  We go out of our way to meet his needs, even if it means the other two suffer a bit in the process.

I don’t do this for my girls.  I love and adore and treasure my girls but I’m not a butt kisser to them like I am my son. But it doesn’t mean if they had a dream like Kyle I wouldn’t be willing to do the same for them.  In fact, I hope and pray they do!

Now, part of our special treatment is directly related to Kyle’s effort.  The kid has heart and discipline and strives at a level I am in awe of.  He wakes up at 5:45am every morning to stretch before weight-lifting.   He does extra workouts on his own, on top of the extra workouts we schedule for him.  He is committed and focused and I want with all my heart to help him achieve his goal of playing college football.   He works hard in school and performs at a high-caliber.  It doesn’t hurt that he also a really nice and amiable kid. 

We expect a lot and he over-achieves on every level.

But where I know we fall into the trophy child trap is putting his success before the rest of the family and sometimes even before God.  Football takes all his time and at least during the season, there is no time for extras.  Youth group goes by the wayside.  Service is missed.  It’s about all I can do to shake him out of his stupor on Sunday mornings to get him to stumble in to church with me.

He suits up for three games a week.  He practices twenty hours.  The abuse on his body by week eight of the season is intense.  Every inch of Kyle has a bruise or a cleat mark.  His pinky is a puff-ball of black and I am deeply grateful we have gotten this far in the season without any major injuries. 

I know there is probably an appropriate balance between sports and God and not allowing our son to get a big head; I just don’t think it’s as easy or trite as some make it out to be.  Commitment means sacrifice.  But God is clearly a non-negotiable. 

And so we must teach our son to weave him into every facet of his day, into each game and during the seasons where he is deeply engaged both on and off the field.

So here’s to trying to living by God’s priority and not our own in the midst of raising a trophy child. 

 

An Encounter With Racism in Ladera

As the steaming hot and gooey pizza was placed on the table, five hands shot out to grab a piece in unison

We were celebrating my son’s fourteenth birthday before I dropped off his posse of freshmen football buddies at their first high school dance. The boys were giddy and amped up as only a potent mix of soda, pepperoni and hormones can do.

They chatted about hot cheerleaders, grueling practices and loads of homework while I secretly listened and delighted in their jibes and roasting.

“Hey mom, can we run over to the mini-mart to get some gum?” my son Kyle asked.

I snorted, “Sure boys, better pick up the minty fresh one for the ladies.” Kyle grinned and took off running with his friends at his heels.

As the boys hustled off, my husband and I smiled weakly at each other from across the table. It had been a big week for our son who started high school and suited up for his first varsity game. Kyle was now playing with athletes of an elite caliber and the stakes were getting higher and higher.

One of the boy’s was a new friend from LA , commuting to play football for J Serra High School. He was a shy kid, a phenomenal athlete and determined to carve out a different path than his gang-banger brothers. I admired the kid’s tenacity and dry sense of humor.

As they walked back in the door, I knew something was wrong.

Kyle burst out, “Mom, a group of older teenagers pulled up in their car next to us, pointed their finger at his friend and screamed, ‘I hate n—ers.’”

(You know, the worst word an African-American can be called)

My heart broke. I looked at the boy’s face as he shrugged it off, pretending not to care. Kyle and Nate didn’t press their friend, although I knew they were concerned and were struggling with how to respond and encourage him.

The awkward space between shock and discomfort hung in the air like the ashes of a wildfire lingering in the haze. We sat in the unease. There wasn’t much to say in the face of such ugliness.

The boy stood proud, not allowing himself to be sucked in by a group of racist white boys trying to intimidate and belittle. I struggled to hold back tears seeing his strength of character.

We changed the subject and moved on, but it affected each and every one of us.

There’s very little I dislike about Ladera Ranch, EXCEPT for the eerily skewed white-bread demographics. Few would deny that Ladera Ranch is a homogeneous Disneyland suburb with white picket fences and Stepford-wives abounding. And if there was a breeding ground for racism in southern California this might be it.

I don’t hate much, but I despise racism…

I hate that we took our young friend out and he was exposed to bigots. I hate that this young man –who is overcoming obstacles right and left to get an education and make a decent life for himself is subjected to idiots running around in daddy’s Mercedes with nothing better to do than make mischief and torment younger kids.

The next morning the boy and another friend from LA came to visit our church. I gulped and prayed they would feel accepted and loved by our congregation. Fortunately my husband, whom they smiled at and recognized, was on stage doing announcements.

A few minutes later a video played with a beautiful young lady from Kenya talking about getting connected and finding relationships here in our community. I turned and saw the boys relax and settle in.

And I knew God heard my heart’s cry to find a middle ground, even if it was just for a brief moment-where black and white didn’t matter and we all stood together side by side worshipping as one.

A Little Boy, a Football, and a Dream

Kyle "Krusher" Adams

Every year ‘bout this time I get a little pouty and sad because Kyle’s football season has come to an end. But this year it’s an extra big deal, because it’s the closure of six years worth of youth football–wow, I blinked and it’s over. It makes me cry to think about it.

The Good Old Days

I was a single mom when I signed my second grade boy up for Jr. All American football. After the first week of hitting he came and sat on my lap and put his little hands on my face and thanked me with all his heart.

Kyle as center

“Mommy, I get to hit people and it’s ok –this is the best thing ever! I am going to play in college and the NFL. Football is my life mommy.”

 

And to Kyle’s credit he has pursued his dream with a vengeance.

 

We’ve been through tough seasons and injuries (a slashed eye, a bum knee, and the swine flu), made tremendous friends (you know who you are Chargers ladies and Titan mammas), and lost our voices on the field of victory and defeat. There have been teams filled with strife, years where the angels sang (2008 Chargers Clinic and 2010 Titans PW ranked 3rd in the nation) and ordinary years that have been just fair to middling.

Faith cheering Kyle on!

I remember suiting Kyle up as a little guy (six years old) and fumbling around trying to strap on the pads. I got so tangled up with the cords sometimes we’d get snapped in the face by an errant strap. Kyle and I would laugh because mommy was so clueless about the gear.

But not anymore…

I’ve washed those football pants thousand of nights with my eyes closed and I can place 20 pads in the right pocket blindfolded.

Titans 3rd Place National Champions

We’ve played in the ‘hood, been smack talked by Southgate and left with police escorts.

Pep talk with Deon Sanders in Florida

I now know what a center is, a full back, a nose guard, a right tackle, and a defensive end –because those are all the positions I’ve watched #70 play.

Kyle and Nate

Faith was always by his side cheering him on and now baby Kolby can lift her tiny hands in the air and yell for her big bro.

Baby Kolby Titan Team Mascot

Thank you to the coaches that volunteered endless hours, to the team moms who slaved away putting together collages, and to the kids who played their hearts out.

Kyle about to Pancake!

And mostly, I thank God for putting a dream in a little boy and directing his every step.

Getting ready for the Big Game

Now we are on to high school football –a new adventure, and while I’m wistful about the past I look forward to this next adventure with my beloved son.

 

All Grown Up

 

Writing on the Wall

Kyle getting his game on!

I sat transfixed; eyes focused on the head coach, listening to him describe the prestigious football program of his private high school and all that it offered to my son. The moment seemed surreal.

I glanced around at the plush meeting room of the athletic department and tried not to pinch myself.  It was a gorgeous facility, well-appointed and filled with the trophies and titles of students past- a tribute to the blood, sweat and tears of dedicated coaches and athletes.

In the middle of the room, directly in front of the coach, perched my boy and his best friend; looking impossibly mature for their thirteen years. The boys leaned in, hungry to hear every word of the coach’s vision, so eager for the opportunity to pursue football glory. A passel of parents surrounded them, including my husband, ex-husband and Kyle’s step-mom. 

The baby and I sat on the floor near the edge of the room. After an extensive tour of the academic facilities, we were now into our third hour, and the baby’s patience was wearing thin.  Naptime had long come and gone and baby Kolby was near the end of her tiny toddler rope. I tried to distract her with a pen and a brochure I picked up along the way, but she whimpered and wiggled by my side scribbling on the paper while I tried to focus on the coach’s words.

I thought it would be so easy picking the right school for my son to attend. Let’s see…what district are we in?  I guess he’ll go there.  But I didn’t anticipate birthing a crushing tackler.  It seems to have changed the whole ballgame.

Coaches from random schools come up to me and ask to shake my son’s hand.  Seriously?

It reminds me of a delicate dance of courtship. Schools, much like a suitor, present their facility in pomp and circumstance, displaying their grand academia and illustrious sports programs. My son and his buddy, the belles of the ball (or stud athletes in this case) are fiercely protected by their mammas and daddies, who want to make sure their beloved boy has the best chance of success on and off the field.

And while there are no football scholarships for high school, there are opportunities with great programs that will give our son a better shot at garnering one in the future.

But all this wooing and playing hard to get, this unspoken ritual of team building, had me all worn out.

Then all of a sudden I felt the head coach’s eyes on me. I turned to look at the baby and a hush went around the room.  Kolby had moved from drawing on the paper to applying masterful pen-strokes to the athletic office walls with her ball point pen and in the blink of an eye destroyed a section of crisply painted walls. They were big black marks swirled in a pattern of childish delight.

I pulled the pen away from her hand and turned with remorse towards the coaching staff.  “I’m so sorry; I’ll pay for the damage.” I groaned.

The head coach raised his eyebrows.

I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide from embarrassment. “So much for remaining aloof and noncommittal,” I whispered to the baby.

Tears of humiliation stung my eyes and threatened to leak out.

(I just know they think I’m a terrible mom)

The room remained quiet and everyone held their breath.

I looked up at the head coach, and he smiled back and shook his head, silently communicating not to worry about baby’s graffiti.  His eyes twinkled with empathy, even levity, and I relaxed and finally smiled again.

 And I knew, in that exact moment, this is where I want my son to go to high school.

This man’s grace towards a bumbling mother spoke volumes about the integrity of his program and the condition of his heart.  I knew he would take care of my son, not only in football but in life as well.

And now that we’ve already left our mark on their wall, maybe it’s a sign.

(Of course, a large inheritance would also be a good sign to help foot the bill)

Donations welcome.

Baby Kolby--Born to be Wild

Fantasy Football Conspiracy Theory

Useful stats

Image by squidpants via Flickr

I have a conspiracy theory.  Somewhere in the world, in a hidden room decked out with 72’ HDTV’s, endless remote controls, and lazy boys lined up in a row, a secret society of Fantasy Football Illuminati is conspiring to take over the world, one league at a time. 

My husband thought my theory was absurd, until we walked into a local Sports Bar on a Sunday afternoon that was as packed to the gills with screaming Fantasy Football fans dressed in sports attire. The internet connection was down in the restaurant after being bombarded by team owners checking their points on their iPhones. That night we watched a promo for a new show on TV about Fantasy Football called The League.  The next morning the news released a story suggesting that Fantasy Football has become the new Internet Porn for guys at work.  But, the icing on the cake has been the many guys in our congregation who have sheepishly confessed to my husband, a pastor, of their inner torment when debating between attending church or snuggling up in front of the game on Sunday morning.

At some point, I got his attention and a begrudging acknowledgement from him on my tongue in cheek theory.  This has opened up a great dialogue as to the many reasons why the game has recently gained a disproportionate amount of popularity among mainstream American males. So, maybe the secret room (in all reality) is full of ad executives from ESPN, but there is no doubt that a movement from within our culture has changed the face of sports fans and what used to be a hobby for a dedicated few, has turned into a phenomenon.

Exactly how many dudes are we talking about? Well, there are about 30 million fantasy players in the U.S. and Canada, which is an increase of 54 percent from just two years ago.[1]  According to Tim Keller, commissioner of The Men of Mariners League, part of the growing interest in Fantasy Football may be attributed to the growing availability of free game software.  In the beginning of the Internet boom, sites like Commissioner.com and RotoNews.com charged a hefty fee for commissioners (up to $300) which made the game cost prohibitive for the average NFL fan.  Most commissioners spent an inordinate amount of hours hand entering stats into an excel spreadsheet.  It was a job that only the dedicated and few could maintain.

That changed in 1999, when Yahoo began offering a free simplified version of the league software, but it was lackluster at best, and if you wanted the Stat Checker you had to pay extra. In 2009 Yahoo made an even more impressive move by offering their formerly Premium Services for free. ESPN followed suit, and all of a sudden Fantasy Football became available to the masses.  In a time of economic downturn, this little gift is akin to trading the injured Clinton Portis for Adrian Peterson.

Another factor driving the venerated game is quite simply—camaraderie.   Guys enjoy having a common purpose and goal.  The heckling at the water cooler, the taunts, the late night trades and the draft party take alienated men who struggle with relational skills and transform them into skilled negotiators.  After approaching my husband about drafting my own team this year, I was surprised at his vacuous response.  After some probing, I realized he didn’t really want me to join his league or any other for that matter.  He associates Fantasy Football as a “guy thing” and subconsciously wanted to protect one of the last bastions of inherent maleness.  I respect his stance of inclusiveness, and though I may still draft a team on Yahoo next year, I won’t push him to let me join the guys.  I will go after his drafting stats though because they are a work of art (a complex algorithm he created on a spreadsheet)!

Then there is the sheer fun of the game.  Like any hobby or recreational activity, Fantasy Football is an escape from reality. No mindless waste of time here, drafting a team requires gut instinct, intense preparation, knowledge and yes…mad skill. Managing a team, tracking free agents, monitoring injured players and figuring out what players to start each week is a labor intensive activity. 

Is it any surprise that over half the players surveyed admitted they spend at least one hour per day thinking about their fantasy football team.[2] Another study from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association revealed that fantasy sports participants spend about three to four hours on the Internet per week, with nearly 1.2 hours of that time at the office.  This too has become a controversial subject. 

Those who argue against it suggest it is the new Internet porn for a generation of upwardly mobile, white-collar professionals[3], while players shot back with some research of their own. A 2006 Ipsos Survey found that 40 percent of respondents said fantasy sports participation was a positive influence in the workplace. One in five said their involvement in fantasy sports enabled them to make a valuable business contact.  As a wife, I tend to argue the upside…Football or Porn?   Umm, how about Football!

Thumbing through a Fantasy Football magazine, I was struck dumb by the wording of this advertisement.  Fantasy Football is fun.  You can play God with your players. Control their destinies.  Draft them…Trade them…Fire them![4] These are some loaded words, but I think they touch on something deeper than the obvious power play.  Men are dying to break out of their mundane lives and do something extraordinary. 

Fantasy Football is a safe outlet for a serious adrenaline rush.  It is modern warfare at home in front of the TV.  A guy can scream at the screen, take big risks with low-cost, and have a sense of control in a world where his job is uncertain or his kids are blowing out.  Every guy yearns for a sense of purpose, to be fully alive and to feel his heart pumping.  These are God-given desires, embedded in the male DNA…and while I don’t suggest trying to play God, I would suggest that God delights in men playing. 

So, enjoy the affirmation when you make a good trade, revel in your team’s domination and whine with other dudes when you’re running back tears an ACL. But, always be cautious of ad executives exploiting your childlike fun with promises to make you millions betting…and please, no matter how awesome your draft is, don’t quit your day job!

Article first published on Technorati, Oct 14, 2010


[1] Fantasy Sports Trade Assn.

[2] study conducted by outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas

[3] http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_38/b4195081511463.htm

[4] Jim Hurley’s Network  336 N. Broadway, suite 410., Jericho, NY 11753

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