I have always loved football. I have watched a lot of football through the years, but have never been a football mom watching football — until now. And that’s a whole other experience.
We football moms run the gamut of emotions from ecstatic delight to paralyzing fear and dread as we watch our babies, looking more like men than we’d care to admit, pounding the silly out of each other down on that hallowed field of agony and glory.
The past six weeks of football have given me pause for reflection on many themes, but here are just a few.
The great poet-philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, once wrote, “What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”
More than once have these famous words sprung to mind as I’ve observed the kids practise and play. There is much of greatness in the rising generation of our youth, and I’m not just talking football here.
I’m talking life skills being learned on and off the field. Things like responsibility (late for practice, you run hills), hard work and determined effort (slack off, you run hills), respectful comportment (swear or mouth off . . . you get the picture), pushing past the hard stuff when you don’t feel like it, giving more than you thought you had, helping each other be better, grace in victory and dignity in defeat.
It’s all a microcosm of life, really. We’re going to get bumped and tackled along life’s rocky road, and the “refs” aren’t always going to see the hits or make the calls as we think they should.
Some days we must simply persevere a little discomfort, as the glowing heat of summer gives way to the “unwelcomed” chill of frost and snow. Still we must show up with our gear on and our hearts prepared to give it our best that day. There will be much of victory and defeat in our path, but we learn to treat both as the friends and teachers they rightly are.
Another theme I wish to touch on is sacrifice. There has been much of selfless service and sacrifice in connection with this football experience, on the part of many.
Parents who fundraise, run the concession, sell 50/50 tickets in the cold, dedicate their time and talents as assistant coaches, trainers and liaisons, to say nothing of cheering and supporting their children. And somehow, every week, those 50 jerseys show up clean and ready to go for the game. I know I didn’t wash them.
The coaching staff spends two to three hours most weekdays, and five to six hours on Saturday game days on the field with the kids, not to mention the added hours spent reviewing game tapes, preparing drills and plays, and generally tending to the needs of players and the team. That’s love of sport, love of kids. That’s heartwarming.
Another theme rattling around my head of late is one of coaching style. Most coaches play to win, but for some, winning is all that really matters. The needs of the team (to win) outweigh the needs of any individual (to play or to develop). This is surely reasonable thinking in certain arenas of sport, but I for one am grateful for a head coach at this level who cares more about developing players, than about ticking wins in a column.
A recent Saturday, for example, our team was ahead 31-6 at half time. Coach Murray could have easily extended that score, especially considering that teams tied at the end of regular season play are ranked based on points scored, for and against. Coach chose instead to play almost exclusively second-string players throughout the second half to give them experience, confidence and a sense of contributing. The game ended 31-6, a sweet victory for all.
Having lettered in three varsity sports at a prominent American university, Murray is certainly no stranger to competition and the impulse to win, but it’s clear that his main objective as coach of the Lindsay Thurber junior varsity football program is to teach these kids more than just football. He’s growing players, individual worth, and ultimately good citizens, who will themselves give back one day.
That’s a good thing. It’s something we can all take home and think about, for there is much that lies in futurity, pertaining to this great generation of youth, that requires the patient, caring hands of those who have gone before. So hats off to all teachers, coaches and mentors of youth!
Thank you for your time, your talents, your commitment and sacrifice. We are all the better for it.
Vesna Higham is a local freelance writer and a former Red Deer city councillor.