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?

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

 

Touchdown Jesus

First published on Everyday Christian Nov 18th, 2010

Many years ago, back in the heyday of college, some friends and I traveled to South Bend, Ind., to see the campus of Notre Dame, and hopefully catch a peek of the Fighting Irish‘s football stadium.  After sweet-talking the groundskeeper, he generously allowed us to run through the hallowed tunnel from the movie “Rudy,” and burst out onto the field. 

Squealing and delighted to have accomplished our covert mission, we pretended to throw footballs and run plays until we caught sight of the mural of Jesus, just to the left and behind the scoreboard.There it was… Touchdown Jesus!

A hush fell over our group.  Though I knew little of God at the time, the sacredness of the space caused a chill down my spine.  I felt like Moses standing on Holy ground, in awe of what my spirit perceived, but did not yet know.  Our antics ceased as we soberly exited the venerated field.

I had no idea at the time how much the two realms of football and Jesus would intersect in my own life. Years later, my 12-year-old son is now a gifted athlete playing football for a nationally- ranked team, heading for the West Coast Conference and then, Lord willing, on to Florida to play in the Pop Warner Football National competition.  My husband, a pastor, will be accompanying him. It is a strange fusion, God and football, and yet for us, it has become our new normal.

While football has many critics, and negative attention has more recently dominated the news because of concerns about concussions and their long-term affects; that which is uplifting and noble cannot be overlooked.  And, while few would debate that brute force is a large part of the game, there is much more beyond the obvious testosterone and aggression than meets the eye. 

In many ways, a great football team is a metaphor for the spiritual battle we face in the fight against good and evil.  Not unlike Christian, in Pilgrim’s Progress, my son and his team-mates pursue football greatness with the same determination as Christian on his journey to the Celestial City.

My son’s team, the RSM Pee Wee Titans, train relentlessly. They are well disciplined and wear the appropriate uniform, or what I like to call “armour” for the battle.  They study film intently, and play by play, make corrections and adjustments.  They diligently research and know their opponents long before the game. 

Their coaches are not only well-versed in strategy, but loving mentors and teachers, leading the boys with both grace and truth. They live, eat, and breathe, the game.  The team is placed higher than the individual, and all sacrifice one for each other.  There is a deep sense of respect among the boys and coaches, as they continually push one another to new levels of performance.

Watching the boys is like viewing an intricate dance.  It is harmony in motion.  The angels sing and the trumpets play.  These are the moments in life, far and few between, when heaven and earth intersect.  When athletes play the way God intended, when a team moves in a cadence and rhythm distinct from the pack, and football in its purest form-is revealed.

Last week, before the League Championship, the boys knelt down and prayed.  They did it on their own cognizance, no adult around, just a group of eleven and twelve year old boys simply praying for courage and honor, and that God would be with them through the blood, sweat and tears.

And so Touchdown Jesus has become a part of our vernacular…God and football, prayers and the O Line, a blend of the sacred and the secular, and a beautiful  picture of little warriors gearing up for a spiritual battle.

Ephesians 6:14-17 (NIV) … Therefore put on the full amour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.


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