Officially football is over. Part of me is relieved and part of me is sad. I love football season. I love to sit out and talk to Paula for two hours four times a week while the boys practice. Sometimes we play cards, sometimes we cheer on the boys, sometimes we hide in the car because we don’t want to watch our boys possibly get hurt during hitting drills or it is just too cold to sit outside and watch. Often, we just sit on a blanket and talk about our weeks, our struggles, our fears, our hurts. You name it, we talk about it!
Last week during half time of our last game our coach was giving the kids the usual half time motivational talk. Most of the parents were ready to suit up and get on the field with the boys after our half time pep talk. You see, our coach gives new meaning to the words “pep talk.”
Let me see if I can explain. Our small group went through the study “Love and Respect” and he talked about the way men are motivated and how any good Army general will motivate through respect and honor. Our coach does exactly that and he does it at the top of his lungs. He grabs a helmet and runs across the field for the boys to follow. Each boy sits around him and waits for what he is going to say. He usually starts with a question like, “Who do these boys think they are to be on this field with you?” He goes on to explain how great they are, how they fight with heart, and how, most importantly, they play fair. We had a team this weekend that thought if they couldn’t beat us they would just hurt us. Our coach was not impressed. He was yelling so everyone within 5 miles could hear him, including the other team, that they didn’t like this team and that our boys were to play right and he would pull them from the game if they didn’t.
He honors our boys by telling them that they have paid the price all week and now it is time to show them what they are made of. At the end of practice, they do fourth quarters. Fourth quarters are four different sets of brutal workouts from bear crawls to suicides. During the last set, all the boys start yelling “Fourth Quarter.” And then one will ask, “Who’s willing to pay the price?” and the boys yell, “Bills, Bills, Bills (our team name). It is quite a sight.
At our games, he begins with the boys huddling up and jumping up and down yelling, “It’s time to go to war. It’s time to go to war!” They do this over and over again and then run out on the field. At the beginning of the 4th quarter they all jump up and down yelling “four, four, four,” and “It’s time to go to war! It’s time to go to war!”
After all of that we are ready to go to war. I just have to tell you it is just what our boys need. Our boys need to be called to rise up and be warriors, to pay the price during the week and fight hard when needed, to push through the pain and continue on. In a world where our boys are being told all different things about what it is like to be a man, I appreciate a coach who teaches what it means to work hard, pay the price, and fight hard. It is a “Braveheart” movie every Saturday, “A Wild at Heart” book in the making.
A friend told me the other day that a child psychologist told her that football promotes violence. I have to disagree. These boys are learning how to take a hit. Christian men need to be fighters. Don’t we live in a battle every day in our Christian lives?
Our boys need to be skilled in battle. They need to be winners and not whiners. They have got to know how to take a hit. Our Christian men need to learn how not to cry when they fall down. They need to learn to “suck it up,” how to “face their giant” when the other team is full of guys the size of their dads, and how to find the courage to overcome. God made men to be protectors and fighters. Football is a good way to teach them just that.
It is not a real war, even though our coach might think it is. It is good training for the real ones. Football, and many other sports, require discipline, self-control, and lots of hard work. Tell me what pre-adolescent boy doesn’t need that! Boys need to run and run until they think they can’t run anymore. Then they need to do it some more. A good coach will make them do this. They can’t stop if they are tired or want to quit. He runs up beside them and screams, “who’s willing to pay they price?” as they run some more. They learn to obey the coach regardless of what they think of his demands. They learn the discipline of obeying authority and pushing their bodies to do what they are told even when they are tired.
Football does more than this. It teaches the boys how to work together, how to cheer for each other. There is nothing better than watching our boys pat each other on the helmet or bump chests when they did well, or help each other up when they missed a pass, or bring in the last runners on team run. It creates a sense of unity or the consequences of letting the team down when one boy has bad grades or gets in trouble and has to stand up in front of the team and tell them why they can’t play with the team this week. I have to tell you, that is a parent’s dream. I can’t create a consequence that means more.
Football can reveal lots about your own son. Nancy Wilson says you can see how they are doing spiritually. Are they throwing a temper tantrum when they don’t get to play? Are you? Are they sorry losers? Are you? Do they cry when they fall down? ( I do believe that tears are ok sometimes, just not a habit.) Does he respond in anger when he messes up? Does he work with the team or is it all for himself? Does he play dirty or give the refs a hard time? Do you? I have to admit, I am guilty of that one. Football can show us all too plainly where our son’s weaknesses are.
That is why I LOVE football and I am sad it is over. September is not too far away. Is it?