. . . try being one of the young men who showed up for the first day of football practice yesterday. Although practice didn't start until 6, the day had not really started to cool down.
It was really wonderful though to see all the eager boys and men. There were some women there but we were vastly outnumbered by dads. Very.Eager.Dads. I won't say they were all reliving their glory days, or trying to be football heroes through their sons, but there were a few that . . .
The league my son is playing in is a developmental league. That means they are separated by weight classes within age groups, and the focus is on skills development. Everyone who wants to try it carries the ball. Everyone who wants to play has to a) keep their grades up and b) stay out of trouble at school. As the main coach bellowed last night, "This is NOT the stepping zone to the NFL. Stay out of trouble and do your homework!"
For a while I watched the 9-10 year olds. Their coach is built like a fireplug, but there's not an ounce of fat on him. He looks and sounds like a former Marine drill instructor. He had them in a circle and was walking around the circle. He wasn't very tall, but taller than them! He cracked out, "when I say 'eyes', you say 'sir'"! The dialogue of 'eyes' and 'sir' gained volume even as I went to the next group.
The anklebiters are the under 75lb players. They have to be at least 6 years old. Some of them were clearly ready to tackle MUCH bigger kids. Some of them looked like they wanted to be anywhere else but there! There were a lot more moms near this group.
And finally, the big guys. The 150-170lb group, all 13 and 14. That's my son - 170 and 5'11". Not much fat on him, just a really big kid and still growing. I'm really proud of him. I think it shows tremendous character to try something new when you're 13.
One of the things we discussed before he went to practice is that he has a choice every time he's out there -- to be a follower or to be a leader. And that he will be hot, tired, hurt, and angry, but that his witness is more important than any of those things. I think he gets that, but we'll see.
He did tell me there was one other boy who has as little experience as him and knows even LESS about football. But that kid is black, so the other black kids were really harassing him about being clueless. Then my son said, "but I also don't open my mouth and let them know how little I know." Ah yes . . . better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. That is indeed, my son!