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One Second

November 18, 2012 9 comments

A four hour drive north brought us to Camden, New York last weekend and only three games away from playing in Pop Warner’s Super Bowl at Disney’s ESPN Sports Arena during the first week of December. The Hudson Valley Knights Midgets’ team had won their division and up until this game, were undefeated.

Excited would be an understatement.

Ready.   Down.   Set.   Hut!

Sometime not long into the first half of the game, the ball was snapped and handed off from the quarterback to my 14-year old halfback.

Three seconds later my heart was lodged in my throat.

Two seconds before the throat lodging, a massive tank wearing the other team’s jersey lunged toward my son. The crowd literally gasped. My jaw dropped and the pupils in my eyes dilated as I watched in horror and failed to breathe. It was in that second, that one second at the point of contact, that I thought to myself:

 Oh, God, this is why so many parents don’t let their kids play football.

In moments such as this, for one split second, all of the decisions you’ve made as a parent become clouded in doubt. Fear rears its manipulative head and begins to churn in yours immediately eating away at your confidence. And it was in that particular moment I prayed without realizing I was praying that the equipment my precious boy was wearing was all that it was supposed to be: SAFE.

In that one second I remembered that I never checked his helmet to make sure it had the sticker showing that it meets the standards of the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.

I meant to.

For it was in the moment that my heart lodged itself in my throat, that the giant from the other team had swooped down, seized my son’s thighs and in one-continuous-effortless-gliding-motion did his due diligence. Nearly as graceful as a male ballet dancer lifts a ballerina above his head, the opposing ogre raised 165 lbs. of my boy, gear and all, and seamlessly flipped him over his head causing him to land CRACK—SMACK, down on his back!

Only when he popped up like a spring from a board a few seconds later, did I begin to breathe again. Oh, I could tell my boy was a little shaken but he survived the throw-back and bounced back into the game almost as seamlessly as he was flipped over the other boy’s head. Luckily, Pop Warner’s equipment safety meets the highest standards.

Even though Pop Warner has clearly defined weight and age guidelines, before the second half of the game began, it was clear the other team had a physical advantage over our boys. Even the coach remarked that although it’s not unusual to come across one or two opposing players who are physically dominant on the field, our boys faced twenty and we lost to Chili (pronounced cheyeleye) which took us out of the championship. Naturally our boys walked away disappointed.

Me, I kept thinking about that moment, that one second in the game that caused my heart to lodge itself in my throat and I, walked away grateful.

My Boy is a Midget

October 28, 2012 18 comments

In 1929, the owner of a new factory in Northeast Philadelphia enlisted the help of a young friend, Joseph J. Tomlin with a recurring problem. Over 100 of the factories’ ground-to-floor windows were shattered in one month’s time by teenagers hurling stones from a nearby vacant lot. Since other factories in the area were also being affected by the same type of vandalism, Tomlin, a sports enthusiast, recommended the building owners join together to fund an athletics program for the city’s youth. Although it wouldn’t be officially titled Pop Warner until the 1934 football season, that was indeed the beginnings of this long-standing organization.

Today Pop Warner is the largest and oldest non-profit, youth football organization in the world with over 400,000 participants ranging in age from 5 to 15. It is also the only youth organization with an academic requirement. The program is divided into four separate age/weight categories referred to as Jr. Pee Wee, Pee Wee, Jr. Midget and Midget.

My boy is a Midget.

His team, The HudsonValley Knights just won the Eastern Region Mid Hudson Conference. They are the League Champions and are now in the Regional Championship. They are undefeated and three games away from playing in the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Walt Disney World this December at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

For 83-years Pop Warner Football has been keeping its participants out of vacant lots, off the streets, off the couch, off the internet and on the playing fields. Over the years its basic philosophy that athletics and academics go hand-in-hand has remained the same, propelling its success. Kids are taught the value of dedication, hard work, practice and teamwork. They are given countless, hands-on opportunities to learn what it means to be responsible, have respect, integrity and loyalty.

These are the character traits of champions.

Oooh, That Smell!

September 9, 2012 8 comments

It’s back.

That smell.

That once foreign, gawd-awful, wretched, in-the-name-of-all-things-sweet-and-soft-and-pretty, what is that smell?—smell!

It. Is. Back!

It’s the one with gag-appeal that begs for the windows in the car to be rolled down, all-the-way-down, despite the rain storm beating against the windshield. It’s the smell that vanished suddenly for eight glorious months only to return with a fierce vengeance, commanding a presence as potent and foul as ever.

Unlike the lyrics of the song however, it’s not the result of a hard living; whisky drinking, pot smoking, pill popping, needle sticking, life that summons the angel of darkness carrying with him, that smell.

On the contrary, think cow manure meets bleach and laundry soap melded with freshly cut grass. Add a rain storm and mix it all together with the sweat from the body of a still growing teenage boy and you’ve got that smell!

That gross, worse than a wet, dirty dog, wonderful smell that tells me once again, it’s Football Season!

Yes, it’s that smell; that permeates every spec of fresh air living within the confines of my car after nearly 3-hours of hard-hitting, ball kicking, mud splattering practice that screams,

My boy is back on the field!

With all its potency, this horrible but heavenly smell brings with it the promise of good health, plenty of exercise, restful, slumber-filled nights and if history repeats itself, academic excellence!

Ooh, that smell, that wonderfully putrid smell has miraculously become a welcome and familiar waft now that dare I say, I think I missed! So, bring it on.

Bring on, that smell!

Cause, I’m taking that smell on with a smile!

Ph0to Credit #1 & 2:  Google Images

Photo Credits #3,4, & 5 ©Karen Szczuka Teich & http://www.takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

News Blues

July 15, 2012 6 comments

I try to stay positive in all my thoughts and dealings but some of last week’s news has left me feeling a bit grumpy.

Most distressing of course was the release of Louis Freeh’s report and his press conference on July 12th with regard to the actions of Pennsylvania State University surrounding the child abuse committed by former coach, Gerald Sandusky.

In short, the five most powerful and cowardly  leaders men (and I use that term loosely) at Penn State failed to take the necessary steps to protect children and made an active decision to conceal.

Shame.

As a parent of a 13-year old football player, I’m dismayed and disgusted.

And while there is great debate, there still stands a bronzed statue of one of these men on campus.

Why?

My heart and sadness go out to the victims and their families.

Then, although on a much lighter (but disheartening none-the-less) note, there was the reveal of  the 2012 U.S. Summer Olympic uniforms designed by Ralph (Lipschitz – yes that is his given name) Lauren.

Seriously, is there a brain surgeon on hand that could lend some intelligence to the Ralph Lauren design team that put these uniforms together? I concede that someone on this team did a fair amount of homework in the beret department. It’s true, members of the U.S. Army and Army Rangers as well as U.S. Special Forces have a long history of wearing a variety of colored berets. Indeed, a black beret was authorized for wear by Women soldiers in 1975. Still, it just doesn’t feel, let alone, look right. I don’t claim to be a patriotic fashionista but don’t most Americans wear baseball caps? Instead we have blazers, white slacks, skirts and berets. This is All-American sportswear?

The uniform, wreaks of upper-echelon snobbery.

It’s disappointing.

And did it not occur to anyone on the Lauren staff that there might be the slightest, tiniest, public or political outcry from American patriots when we learned these gems were outsourced and made in China? China? Isn’t that a competing country in the Olympics? To his credit (only after all of this media hullabaloo) Mr. Lauren stated that he will make the 2014 uniforms in America.

I’m happy to hear at least that, as our team is supposed to representative of our nation.

What’s your opinion about either of these news topics?

Photo Credit #1 Google Images

Photo Credit #2 Google Images

Photo Credit #3 Ralph Lauren U.S. Olympic Uniforms

All About Football

February 5, 2012 10 comments

This week, it’s all about football. As it should be.

Super Bowl Sunday after all, boasts more than 100-million viewers. And that’s not including those who will for the first time, be able to get the game streamed-live through their computers or on their androids through Verizon’s NFL Mobile app this year. Many viewers will tune in simply to catch the commercials that are selling for upwards of $3.5 million dollars for a 30-second spot. Others will gather in front of their screens or phones, to watch Madonna during half-time, in hopes of witnessing something spectacular. Super Bowl Sunday has something for everyone.

Like baseball and apple-pie, football is a staple of Americana.

My 13-year-old son played on his first football team this past fall and admittedly, I entered the season with a fair amount of trepidation and skepticism. I had my doubts to say the least and even cried foul! on parental interference after witnessing arguments amongst parents and overhearing less-than-encouraging remarks spewed from a dad’s lips to his son’s ears from the stands during a scrimmage. And of course, there were those few pre-game injuries that left “worry” all over me. But it wasn’t about me. It was about letting go and supporting my boy’s passion. Thankfully, the drama was quickly squelched when his three coaches gathered parents and players together and put forth a team “code-of-conduct” that had the distinct air of –if you don’t like it, you can leave– attached to it. This, for the most part, put the ka-bash on future parental outbursts. These men meant business and would stand for nothing less than 100% from everyone. Parents included.

I’m okay with accountability.

As a parent you try to teach your child to take responsibility, be fair, honest and work hard to achieve their goals. For the first two weeks of practice, my boy came home bruised and swollen, dirty and tired. He endured grueling 3-hour practices everyday during the month of August and three days a week from September until the end of November. He was expected to maintain a passing grade average and had to submit school reports to his coaches for review. The integrity of his coaches gave me a new-found appreciation for the game, overall. Along with game-play-strategies, life lessons were taught and there was an in-your-face demand on each player, to show up ready to give it their all, every time.

I am also okay with placing high expectations on kids who are capable.

Knights @ Marist College against White Plains. My boy is center #22.

The emphasis was on the team and while they absolutely protected their quarterback, they also hailed the guys that ran, blocked and threw for him. Maybe this isn’t news to you all but it sure was for me. The best part is that while I had my suspicions that I was liking what this sport was doing for my son’s overall character, the real evidence surfaced in December, when the football league gave him an award for maintaining a 92% or above, average during the season and later that month at his parent/teacher conference. Students participate in their conferences at his school and after his adviser acknowledged his ability to keep-up his schoolwork while playing soccer for the school and the town, as well as Pop Warner football, simultaneously, he asked my son what he felt football did for him this season. I was pretty blown away, not to mention proud when he came out with something that closely resembled this:

When I started to play football I wanted to be the one to get the touchdown but I realized that even if my part in a play is small, if I don’t do my best to execute it, it could effect the whole team and whether or not we win. If we all do our part, we all will benefit from it because we’re a team.

Coming from the boy who proclaimed he would be playing for the NFL long before he every wore his first pair of shoulder pads, I was impressed that the importance of being a team-player was one of the values he came away with. He got it.

He’s since changed his mind and no longer wants to be an NFL player but he will always be a superstar to me.

This year I’ll watch the game with a slightly different eye, one that sees beyond the price of a 30-second commercial spot or the half-time glitz and glamor. I will actually watch the game and the players and hope to see some of the determination and heart that I saw these young boys display week after week last fall, to where their efforts propelled them into the NFC Pop Warner Conference Championship. This year, I’ll look for strategy behind the play and know that it wasn’t achieved without hard work and pain, camaraderie and trust. There’s more to it, I’ve learned, than just running a ball from one end of the field to the other.

Whether you’re a Patriots or a Giants fan, sit back and relax!

Enjoy the game and may the best team win! Whomever that may be…..

Foul! Parental Interference!

August 21, 2011 10 comments

As I mentioned last week, I’m a newbie to the whole playing-of-football thing and while I’m truly grateful for the side-effects it seems to be having on my boy so far, I can’t help but question some of the misconduct I observed during play, by a few of the parents!

I was only slightly perturbed when at a recent scrimmage game I overheard one dad in the stands telling another dad that he has given his son carte blanche on what he eats,

“I took away the vegetables. I don’t care what he eats as long as he bulks up.”

I was completely unnerved however by the actions of a few of the moms at the same game.

Tell me, is it really common place in football for a mom in the bleachers to stand up and yell out to her boy that for every kid he “hits”, excuse me, every kid he “hits and takes down– CLOCKS!“, he will get $50 from his dad?

“That could be an Xbox 360!” she said.

Or is it normal for a mom in the stands to threaten the loss of an activity to her son, if he doesn’t make a hit?

Some of these boys, like mine, are new to play and as expert as they may be when they watch the NFL, I suspect actually playing the game, is a tad bit different. You have to execute the rules you know so well by heart from watching. In this recent game, one newbie player from the other team had a tendency to put his hands up in the air, making it appear as though he was going to hit an opposing player, by way of fist.

You can probably guess how that played out; in a stock-pile tussle on the field ending with two boys crying and one parent spectator yelling out “Suck it up, man. Suck it up!” to his son.

I am all for NOT raising pansies. In fact, I happen to think parents in general coddle their kids a bit too much these days. Me included. I won’t let my girl go beyond our cul-de-sac without permission and when we move, I probably won’t let her go out at all. Meanwhile, when I was her age, I walked through town to go to school, meet a friend or to the movies, completely on my own.

The idea of yelling at an 11-year old to “suck it up!” after having just been punched and piled upon though, to me, seems a little extreme; among other things.

Worse was when one of our mom’s started screaming at one of our player’s dad because she mistook him for being a parent of an opposing player. Yes, for all the players and spectators to see and hear, this mother of one of our 10 to 12-year old boys, ripped this man to pieces from across the stands because he called out that the play was getting too rough. That prompted a screaming debate between actual opposing parents in the stands on whether or not kids who did not want to get “hit” (or hurt) should play at all.

  I thought they were here to learn the rules and play the game. Am I wrong? Am I being naive?

Football is an aggressive sport and tackling is part of the game. They have gear, they’re protected. I get it. I think competition can be healthy and I consider myself a fairly competitive person. I like to win, just as much as the next gal. And if no one knew I was at the game beforehand, there was no mistaking my presence when my boy got the ball, broke through the center hole and shot down-field like a bullet for his first touchdown!

WooHoo!! THAT’S MY BOY!!

I am after all, his biggest fan.

These boys are 10, 11 and 12-years old. They don’t need to be encouraged by parents to exhibit barbaric behavior. They just need to be encouraged. Even at 12, our children watch closely what we do and say. The power of example is a strong one.

Every year when I register my kids for soccer, I’m handed a piece of literature entitled Parents Code of Conduct. I’m asked to read and sign it. The first time I read it, I thought to myself, “Really, is this necessary?”  Perhaps it is. As I’ve never seen the same kind of behavior I witnessed at my first football game at any of the soccer games I’ve attended over the past seven years.

And while I must say, I was impressed by the way the coaches handled the boys on the field, I call, “FOUL! “on the way the parents’ behavior interfered with the game.

And to think, this was only a scrimmage.

Any advice on how to get through this from the not-so-newbies out there?

Photo credits: Google Images

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