Football season is a big deal at our house. My husband grew up in Nebraska where cheering on the Huskers is nearly considered a religious experience, so it is no wonder he has passed his love of the game on to our boys. But regardless of their obsession with the sport, I was hesitant to sign them up for tackle football this fall.
And it’s not for the reason you might think. The tackling and the possibility of getting clobbered didn’t worry me a whole lot. Honestly, ten-year-old Carter and eight-year-old Owen can pound each other pretty hard in our own home, and they don’t have pads on when they are doing it. So, though I know they could get injured on the field, I feel pretty good about sending them out there all padded up.
It was the level of commitment required that gave me reservations about letting them play. I thought they might not be able to hack it. In Ballard Youth Football, practices are long and hard and the kids play their games on full-sized high school football fields. Though practice can be fun, it’s not a cakewalk. They run. They do calisthenics. And they memorize plays. My fear was that they would want to quit halfway through.
Boy was I wrong. I completely underestimated them. We’re nearing the end of the season, and they have never complained about practice. Not once. Even 7:30 Saturday morning practices have come and gone void of grumbling, (except maybe from me.)
And I’ve realized that if I had I let my reservations keep them from playing youth football, they would have missed out on a lot of learning opportunities, growth and fun. I know the sport is not for every family, but for us, it has been a positive experience all the way around.
Not only have my boys shown me they can commit to something and stick to it, but they have been learning valuable life skills. They have learned the fundamentals of their favorite game. Now they better understand the sport they love to watch with their dad. They have learned to deal with the disappointment of loss. Not everybody wins all the time in football or in life. They have learned that if they want to get better at something, they need to put in some hard work. They have seen that all that practicing has led to improvement on the field. And possibly most importantly, they have learned what it means to be a part of a team. There are a lot of players on a football team, but not a lot of “glory” positions. My kids are learning that no matter what their position, how they play is important and affects the team as a whole. And I believe that lesson will be valuable throughout their entire lives.
I am glad we chose to sign the boys up for youth football. I think I sometimes do a disservice to my kids by deciding ahead of time what I believe they are capable of. And their involvement in football has proven to me that it’s good to let them try the hard things, and it’s important for me to be supportive and encouraging to them as they see it through to the end.
This The Stuff of Life column was originally published in the Tri-County Times.