If you follow football at my kid's high school, you probably know who I am. I'm a constant, vocal and physical presence at the games. I take pictures at all the games, publish a weekly newsletter and send out weekly email informational updates to the parents. I figured out a long time ago that if I hold a camera and take a few pictures, I get to hang out with the team on the sidelines, and that's a much better place to experience the game. My kid has played for 10 years and my husband has coached for 9 years. From August to December (and actually longer than that) we eat, live and breathe football. There have been many weekends that I've watched 5 live games. Two high school games on Friday night and 3 games from our youth league on Saturday afternoons. I am a fan. Most people assume that since I'm so involved in quite possibly the most successful youth and high school teams in our area, I would know a lot about football. I'm here to tell you, that I don't know much. I can tell you the difference between offense and defense. I can tell the difference between a run and a pass. I can tell you what position my kid plays and I can name most of the kids on the team and tell you their jersey numbers... but that is where my expertise ends. I don't know the names of the plays. I don't understand what "holding" is and I have no idea what formation the players are in. I don't know what our current standing is or updated stats. People ask me all the time about our plays, strategies and positions and my answer is the same... "I don't know." Most of the time they think I'm just holding out, but the truth is that none of that stuff really matters to me.
What I do know is much more important. There is a brief moment just before the snap of the ball when anything is possible. The moment when the score, the game and even the final outcome are not the priority. The only thing that matters in that moment is the play before them. The offense has a plan of execution that will require the full commitment and effort of each of the 11 players on the field... a precise choreography. The moment when the defense, anticipating what will happen and relying on the hours and hours of practice and the shared focus of their teammates to defend their goal. The moment when everyone gets a second chance... regardless of the score or field position. I know that downs represent opportunities. You get at least 4 of them at a time... and if you're successful... with small steps, you'll keep moving forward towards your goal. If something doesn't work the first time, you change the play and try something different.
I know that football is a game that turns boys into men. I know that football brings together strangers and transform them into brothers. I know that physical talent is not what makes a team successful. Discipline and the "WE" philosophy is the secret. Heart and strength of character will make you more of an asset to the team than your size or how much you can bench press. I know that the respect a player holds for not only his coach but his teammates and his opponents will serve him well as he enters the real world after high school and college. I've witnessed boys do the right thing by their team despite the fact that their parents had a "me" attitude and wanted what was best for their boy regardless of the implications for the team. I know that the boys that put their heart and soul into the game, the players who leave everything on the field, never regret the decision.
I know that families that invest their time, money and energy in the team they support, forge unbreakable bonds with their football family of choice. I know that the friends that we've made through the teams we've supported will be life long members of our extended family. I know that parents that let the coaches coach and let their kid play enjoy the whole experience much more than those who think they know better. I know that when you work for the good of the team, it doesn't feel like work at all. It's a pleasure and the benefits always out number the cost.
For 10 years I've had a kid on the team... and I have cherished every moment, every down, every quarter, every win and every loss. I have enjoyed the privilege of being a part of the team even if I never put on pads and a uniform. I have been blessed with experiences and relationships that have made me a better mom, wife, friend and human being. I have learned much more than I taught, received much more than I gave and celebrated more than I complained.
My kid has played his last down of high school football. (Click here to read more about the last game.) That part of my life is over, but my participation in the sport I love is not lost, it's just different. I'm sure it won't be the same experience, but you'll still find me on the sidelines from time to time. After all, it's not about the final score, it's about living in the moment and the new opportunity with each snap of the ball. That's life. That's what football gives each of us... the lesson of learning to live in the moment, to pick yourself up off the ground, huddle up with your team and try again.
Who knows... maybe with some more time on the field, I will finally learn how to execute a "Z" Kick.