Once upon a time in a suburban Connecticut town, there was a mom. A wide-eyed, naïve, hopeful mom of a football-playing 13-year-old waiting in a parking lot after the first-ever practice of the season. She waited. And waited. And kept on waiting for exactly 32 minutes past the scheduled end time. Feeling a mix of panic, irritation and concern she thought: “Am I at the right field? Did I misread the Team Reach app? Was there some kind of lockdown….should I be ducking bullets right now?!” Then after the same sequence of events happening for three nights in a row, she realized. Nope. The coach is just flipping insane.
This blog is for all the football mamas out there, similarly questioning whether she unknowingly enrolled her school-aged child in an NFL feeder program, or whether she just stumbled upon a rare anomaly of a Kool-Aid drinking youth league full of parents/coaches believing they’ve for sure birthed the next Brady. But much to my chagrin, after talking to enough moms from enough towns in enough leagues, I’ve come to one conclusion. Football simply breeds a special brand of crazy that no soccer, baseball or basketball parent could ever in their wildest nightmares, imagine.
Where to begin. First, there’s the unholy level of enthusiasm allocated to every aspect of this sport. The practices, the team dinners & concession duties, the fundraising, the games…it’s like every coach, assistant coach, parent and child injects a kilo of analeptics into their system before hitting the field, like Ozzy on his Crazy Train tour for the next three hours.
My first exposure to this was phenomenon occurred during my son’s very first scrimmage, when a player attempting to rip another’s helmet off, resulting in a near fist fight between the coaches, and two opposing bands of parents screaming at the top of their lungs, using verbiage that’d make a sailor blush.
You can imagine my pounding heart and popping eyes as I frantically searched other similarly spirited mothers who surely must feel as equally horrified. Not a one could be found. Just fists in the air, neck veins popping, and I believe I saw a grandma chuck her koozie towards a ref, in a fit of Heineken-infused rage.
Then there’s the military grade level of commitment required in this jewel of a youth sport. Practice three nights a week (3!!!) for three hours a week (3!!!), preparing for an away game located an hour away, and ya better get your boy there an hour early or coach’ll bench ‘em.
Now I’m no stranger to hard work and elbow grease. I was raised by a German-blooded father who insisted I mow the lawn as soon as I could reach the handle and threatened to remove all childhood niceties if my report card ever displayed a C. Pain and dedication were a normal part of childhood (fist bump to all my gen X mommas out there). But c’mon. These are children picking their noses on the sidelines who still may or may not get tucked in at night.
Again, we all want to be the genetic genesis to the NFL’s future star quarterback. But when the Friday night lights go dim, and the eye black washes off at night, we’re all left with the reality that there’s a better chance of getting struck by lightning….collectively…at the exact same time. The gig is up friends, And if we truly do have the next Patrick Mahomes on our hands, will that third night or third hour of monkey rolls and sideline drills really be a contributing factor to his stardom?
Then there‘s the complete and utter disregard for parents’ time. This one’s a killer. After that fourth night sitting in the parking lot ‘til 8:20 pm, watching the coach transition into minute number 12 of a presumably Shakespearean-grade pep talk, I began casting exploratory glances into other cars, gauging the levels of rage and impatience that surely wasn’t my own.
Nothing. Just downward faces illuminated by cell phone light, scrolling through podcast titles and Insta stories with their infants whining in the backseat and their siblings still waiting at home for homework help. It took many a night fantasizing about sending Coach the most diplomatic of requests to kindly end practice on time in consideration of the 15 families being held ransom by his delusions of grandeur and clear power tripping…and then it hit me. It’s not that everyone isn’t irritated. It’s just the fear of backlash (a.k.a. our kids being benched) supersedes the injustice. And so…we wait.
A few months ago, this cathartic rant would’ve ended here. However just when I thought we’d reached the climax of our youth sports-infused misery, my husband signed our 11-year-old up for lacrosse. TRAVEL lacrosse, to be played during the same season as soccer. For any blessed mother having zero intimacy with the three-ring circus known as travel ball….I’ll let the words of my favorite”Confessions of a Crappy Christian” podcaster Blake Guichet convey it best: “For a lot of parents today, travel ball is the downfall of the American family.”
Sounds extreme but I don’t think she’s wrong. I mean, in what world should parents who typically have two kids, if not more, voluntarily shuffle their grade-school aged child around the tri-state area to kick a ball down a field for 60 minutes, only to turn around and drive home after effectively ruining any possible family time for the next eight weekends? My husband was gone for seven hours last Saturday and three on Sunday. I legit think people at church think we’re having domestic issues. It’s simply out of control, and I hope for our kids’ sake our society’s obsession and quasi-slavery to youth sports will restore balance.
Until then, we suck it up, buckle up, and keep supporting and sacrificing to get these kids on and off field on time (usually) and in one piece. Because we’re moms. It’s what we do. Plus have you seen my kid throw? He’s for sure making third-round draft pick. #PoisonedByTheKoolAid #SomeoneHelpMe. xo
For more on navigating hectic parent life check out my post “7 Life Hacks for Working Moms with Young Kids.”
For more on the ills of over-prioritizing kid’s sports check out A Cheeky Article on Travel Baseball | Christian Standard..