Oh end of summer. We love when you come around. You can almost feel it in the air. Change. New teachers and seeing friends again. Freshly sharpened pencils and unopened boxes of crayons. Bathing suits are put away and sweatshirts come out. (Well, not really. This is South Carolina.) Alarms are set again and lunchboxes are pulled from the cabinet. It’s the promise of so many things. Annnddd…
We’ve partnered with Football Matters, a National Football Foundation initiative to promote leadership and the lifelong lessons taught by the game of football and to celebrate the positive impact the game has made on millions of players, coaches, administrators, volunteers and fans nationwide.
The anticipation is almost palpable in our house. My oldest begins to study the AP rankings, reports on injuries and season predictions. We look over the team schedule and start making plans with friends for specific viewing parties. I bring my orange and blue to the front of my drawer in preparation for Saturdays. The general feeling of “EEEK! It’s almost here!” is swarming around us. Let the countdown and the trash talk begin!
Just to clarify: Football isn’t our life. And actually, other than a few seasons of flag football for our middle child, I’m not sure any of my kids will play it. We have surrounded ourselves with soccer and dance and art and music and Jesus. The love of college football has come as a fun and welcomed surprise in the life of our family.
I’m a mom who is ALWAYS looking for teachable moments for my kids. This game is full of them. As I sit here and think about it, I amazed at what I’ve learned from this seasonal hobby of ours.
How to Lose Well
I love that we can have a team,appreciate all of their hard work and celebrate when they win. But what happens when they aren’t winning? How do we respond?
Teaching our kids appropriate expression of emotion in the frustrating times has become important. They can be frustrated but learn to handle it in a manner that makes sense. We can help them recognize that these guys on the field are just kids and imperfect, and just like you, they can have bad days. But they get another chance next week.
Life is not always winning or being at the top. In fact, most of life is lived in the middle, so we celebrate the successes and learn from the losses. Just like football.
It Builds Community
One of the loveliest surprises of having a team is the instant community that comes with it. You have people rooting for a common outcome, celebrating together, commiserating together, reliving the Glory Days together. I can be in another state, wearing my team shirt, pass a person on the street, and hear them say, “Go Gators.”
More than that, when my kids look over the season schedule, they aren’t just calculating the National Championship chances. They are making a list of whom we should have over to watch the games. Which family friends cheer for opposing teams, and what kind of food will we serve? They don’t just associate the season with competition, but community.
Find the Role Models, Not Just the Best Players
There are so many talented players on those fields. Every year there are one or two players who really stand out. They earn recognition and receive awards and high praise. But what are they doing off the field?
I encourage my kids to research their life. (I mean, as best they can. It is the internet, ya know.) What is his GPA? What are his other hobbies? What do people say about him and what is his relationship with his family? How is he making a difference in his community?
The football is fun, but it is fleeting, even for the luckiest of players. Reputation and character are the things that last and the traits you leave behind. Find people who are making a positive mark in the world and follow them.
I’d Rather You Have a Great Coach Than a Winning Team
Here me now: I really like to win. There are not many things better than working hard and winning well. For sure. But where I sit now, as a mom, I see life a bit differently.
More than that “W,” I want my kids to have a coach who teaches them about life and becoming a strong man or woman. A coach who pushes them through their weaknesses and guides them into their potential. I love a coach with passion who can admit his or her faults. Does he or she build up more than tear down?
I want my children to have a coach who loves them as they are, but loves them too much to let them stay that way. A coach can change their life – for better or for worse.
You Can Love Competition Without Being Competitive
Nothing can damage that community more than being super competitive. No one wants to hang around a person who is rude, disrespectful, and cannot handle their emotions well. I enjoy teaching my kids to love the game and all that it embodies without becoming a crazy fan who ostracizes the people around him or her. And keep the trash talking to a minimum. Be an educated fan. Know your stats. Know your odds. Know when to stop talking.
I know. Football is just a game. I’m first to admit it – and remind myself of that each week of the fall. But it truly is a really fun hobby. I encourage you, mama of a football lover. Learn the language. Ask the questions. Dig in. Your child will love it.
This game brings our family together in a common conversation at least once a week. I’m grateful, that for us, this is an extension of what we have already built and not the extent of it. But if you need a place to start, if you’re looking for a few fun moments this fall, come on! Join in! You’ll love it.
The National Football Foundation (NFF) launched Football Matters to celebrate the positive impact the game has made on millions of players, coaches, administrators, volunteers, and fans nationwide. Debuting in February 2018 at www.footballmatters.com and on social media, Football Matters spotlights and explains the many benefits that football brings to communities, schools, families, and individuals and the opportunities it provides to those on and off the field and at every level. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.