How Can You Let Your Kid Play Football?

Kyle Materdei

For me, winning isn’t something that happens suddenly on the field when the whistle blows and the crowds roar. Winning is something that builds physically and mentally every day that you train and every night that you dream. – Emmitt Smith

People often ask me “How can you let your kid play football?”

“How can you handle the anxiety? What if he gets hurt? Did you hear about Brett Favre’s memory loss?”

And I respond with, “Yes, I know the risks and they are big. But, when I weigh the good versus bad…football wins, hands down, every time.

Let me explain:

  • It’s About Attitude

I learn perseverance from my own kid. Each week Kyle plays in two football games –a JV game on Thursday and a Varsity game for J Serra Catholic High School on Friday nights.

It was great fun at the beginning of the season (when we won every game), but as we draw towards the end, the beatings and abuse are taking a toll—physically on Kyle and emotionally on me.

As Kyle walked out of the house this morning, he moved more like an old man with hemorrhoids than a studly sophomore athlete.

While Kyle has avoided any major injuries (thank you Jesus), he has about thirty mid to minor boo-boos. He has torn tendons in his hands, what looks like multiple broken toes, four black fingers, bruising from elbow to wrist, and muscle aches from top to bottom.

This is what happens to our boys during Trinity League play—total body annihilation.

And yet despite the pain, his mental strength is greater.

  • It’s About Courage

Yesterday Kyle went up against St. John Bosco, a team ranked anywhere between second and fifth in the country and first in California. Let me say that again…Ranked 1st in California (and folks we got a big state).

Tonight he starts in the Varsity game—against beasts as big as any college line.

His opponent under the lights this evening?

A three-hundred and fifty-three lb senior guard with multiple offers from around the country. Sounds like hell to me—but Kyle’s pumped.


Each week, I watch my barely fifteen-year-old boy playing against these monsters and I try not to cringe with each tackle. I close my eyes, I pray and I repeat over and over “It’s in God’s Hands.”

Generally, Kyle is the one beating up dudes, but last week the two-hundred and ninety lb lineman from Materdei flat-backed him once or twice.

  • I learn to Trust God With my Kid

Only the football mom knows the inordinate amount of time it takes between her kid going down and the moment he moves.

It’s the space of how long I can hold my freaking breath.

Either I let go of control or I lose it. So, I learn to release and rest in the arms of the one who gave me this child to steward.

  • It’s About Excellence

This game has allowed my son a safe place to let out his aggression. It’s taught him teamwork, mental toughness, invaluable life lessons, responsibility, ownership, and crazy loyalty. As I watch him get up each morning before dawn to put his football clothes in the dryer—even though he gets home from practice as late as 8:00pm, then eats, showers and works on homework until 11:00pm—I am in awe at his discipline.

Where does this well of dedication come from—this inner drive for excellence and unrelenting persistence—despite pain, despite injury, despite pure exhaustion?

I like to think I have a strong work ethic–but Kyle’s dedication is more than the sum of me hustling multiple jobs, more than my old single mom status, more than pastor’s wife exhaustion and more than the sleepy mom who slept on the floor of her toddler’s room for the fifth night in a row because her kid is scared of ghoulies. (Dang You Scooby-Do!)

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will. – Vince Lombardi

My question to you is, “How can I not let him play football?”

If you think about it, please pray for my kid (and me) tonight at 7:00pm (and the next two Fridays at the same time!)



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