Sunday, November 14, 2010

Football Was Fun

Y's Junior football season ended on a chilly fall evening. The JV team suffered it's first loss of the season. The Varsity team earned a spot at the state tournament. It was a good season, yet at times - a hard season.
Y entered the ball game on what would be the last offensive series. He did his part, although no passes were attempted his direction. The game ended. His season ended.
Reflective, he said "Football was fun."
"You playing next year?" I hopefully asked.
A peaceful grin emerged.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Some Moments Of Glory

For a mom, it doesn’t get any better than this! I can say with absolute surety that was the best night of 2010 so far. It will be hard to beat. The Varsity head coach made arrangements for a game in a small nearby town. All of the kids who rarely played were invited to go - Y included. He was excited for an opportunity to play; we were excited to see him.
As parents, we weren’t the only ones. Sitting with us in the stands, were Grandma (Grandpa was herding cattle), uncles and some cousins chatting about where did #20 go, during the fast moving plays. It was a thrill.
Y played almost every down of the entire game. He looked good. There were definitely some moments of glory and some key coverage at a defensive position he rarely even plays in practice. He looked good, strong, coordinated, and steady throughout an atypically long 3 and a half hour game.
He took the bus home. W and I chatted incessantly all the way home about how good he looked, how much potential he has, and the fact that it’s too bad he was 5’1” and 80 pounds as a freshman, delaying his debut on the football field.
Y came home a little while later. W was retrieving the 4Runner which broke down at the high school a couple of days earlier. Y and I chatted about the game. He didn’t seem so happy. I couldn’t understand why. It’s true; there were no catches for him at wide receiver. He had a couple of opportunities to intercept on defense, and he batted it down instead, but all in all, he played great.
The Grandma sitting next to me, there to see #28, turned to me at one point, and said: “He (Y) has saved the scoring touchdown five times!” One time he was being blocked by the opposing wide receiver. The QB for the other team had scrambled through our entire defense. We had blitzed, leaving Y with solo coverage and what turned out to be the last line of defense. I held my breath as he was still tangled up with the opposing wide receiver. Then, as if in slow motion, he freed himself and made the saving tackle. Not only did this tackle save the score, but it secured the win as we were only up by 4. A couple of downs later, the game ended. Our team huddled and chanted on the sideline and I took great delight in it all!
And yet- Y seemed a little down. This took me back to my thoughts after the last game, wondering what he sees in himself and his future potential. We interrupted game chat to read scriptures and get a very sleepy little sister off to bed. Y still seemed “off”. Then he mentioned he hadn’t had time to eat the snack I packed him because the bus had a no food rule. “You must be starving!” I said in amazement as I jumped up and headed for the kitchen. “Tacos or orange chicken and rice?”
As he munched on his piled high plate of nachos and drank a Gatorade, his demeanor lightened. His dad finally returned from the 4Runner errand and joined in the game chat as well. Y surveyed his scratches, scrapes, bruises, bumps and aches and pains. He walked like he was eighty. It was awesome! We moved our chat to a soothing hot tub, and minutes later, all seemed well. His tummy was full; he had the support and attention of both parents reminding him of all the great plays where he had done his part.
I reflected on the scripture we had discussed. It reminded us to seek not earthly treasures, but rather heavenly ones. And yet- how easy it was to take such delight in this earthly treasure- of football. Y and I chatted about how you just need to serve always, keep your covenants, and if the Lord decides to bless you with earthly treasures- pay it forward.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"When You Gain Self-Respect, No One Can Take That"

An excerpt from Y’s family prayer last night:
“...We are thankful we could all watch the football game tonight...”
Yes- we all watched. Even Y – although he did get 5 quick downs at the end, once again our team with a commanding lead.
So he seems to be handling this “trial” with humor.
He is taking a psychology class this semester. The teacher asked for a volunteer with strong self esteem. No one volunteered. A classmate volunteered Y and he concurred that he would cooperate. The teacher called him a “feeble minded meathead”.
Y responded “Right back at ya!!!” The teacher was taken off guard and had a difficult time proving his point. He was trying to communicate that if we hear enough negativity about ourselves we begin to believe it.
This forced a discussion. I asked Y. Do you let negative things people say about you “in”?
He said “No!”
“Why not?” I followed
“Just don’t.” he quipped.
I wasn’t that strong as a teenager- not even close. I look at how valuable a tool that is when you are in a tough situation as he is now.
We reflected back to a talk he gave in church when he was thirteen. I remember he struggled to write it. The subject was “I am a Son of God.” I thought it should be easy for him. It wasn’t. After lots of praying for help, I think he gained a greater understanding and belief that he is a son of God. I’ve enclosed an excerpt from his talk:
“At 6 foot 6, from North Carolina, Michael Jordan is in my opinion; actually I call it a fact, the best basketball player on the face of the earth. I can learn a lot about basketball from him, but, I also learned a few things from reading his book, For the Love of the Game. He says, “I think my father saw some things in me that I couldn’t see in myself.” When I read that, I thought of my Father in Heaven and I realized that I need to learn more about who I am as a son of God, and what my purpose in life is. Michael Jordan also said “I had self- respect, and nothing any one ever could do to me, or say about me, could change that.” That is also true in this earth life. Sometimes people don’t treat me with respect. But I need to learn as Michael Jordan did that when you gain self -respect no one can take that.”
I can see Y’s progress over the past several years. I still think both his earthly and Heavenly parents see more in him than he has yet seen in himself. Its okay- still room for growth. But perhaps what allows him to go forth in good humor and faith is his sound self-respect.
We talked last night about his new love for the game of football. He expressed a desire to play in college.
“What about basketball?” I asked.
“Uh- I wanna play both!”
I hope and pray he does see his potential – that these are not just empty desires. And, that he remembers and relies on what he has faith in, because, with the Lord on your side- Anything is possible. . .

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"We Are Just Going To Pretend Those Two Penalties Were Not On Me"

I came home from the game last night still partially frozen from the ridiculous cold that fell upon the stadium combined with wind. I weakly presented dinner, assisted with homework, chatted briefly with Y between homework attempts, and then exhaustedly fell into bed.
This was my painful direct prayer:
“Dear God-
Please reprogram me while I sleep.
Hours earlier, we had pulled into the parking lot up by the gym. I felt a groan come over me. This place is where hard things happen. I’m not sure that there have been but a few days of anything other than hard times there. I’m pretty sure our course has been atypical. I don’t know of anyone else whose kids have had to battle so hard to receive so little.
I know there are parents essentially uninvolved. We sat on the visitor’s side trying to guard against some of the wind. I counted the groups of parents on the other side- the home side. There were 26. Roughly half of the kids didn’t even have someone there to watch them. In talking with Y after the game he said many don’t even want to go in because they don’t know what they are doing. Then it becomes cyclic. The more they don’t play, the less confident they are when presented an opportunity.
Y’s team won 50-0. Towards the end of the 4th quarter, Y gets put in on a series at wide receiver. His first play, he lines up off sides. Penalty flag is thrown. He has an extended chat with the ref, his team calls time out, and they line up again. This time he is on the opposite side of the field. They line up, he is interchanging with the ref when the ball is snapped, flag is thrown- he is off sides again. There was some chatter in the stands- of the negative variety. I was insanely angry. He gets another token play and is taken out because of his mistakes. Keep in mind; we are up 50-0. This must be why some of these other kids with no experience don’t want in the game. He was put in for two other plays late in the final minutes. 50-0. Y played 5 downs of football.
As I ambled up the hill toward the parking lot, I reflected the same reflection I had days before. Did we limit our boys’ opportunities by supporting their decisions to play high school sports? Should we have steered them in a different path? If we never came to watch, would they lose interest and confidence in themselves, and quit? Is that even what I think is best for them?
No- not even remotely.
The old 4-Runner made its way down the driveway. Y comes in- announces “We are just going to pretend those two penalties were not on me.” We all smile and gently laugh, not knowing how he really feels and wondering if the joke is to cover up some of the pain. He sits at the bar and inhales some scrambled eggs. When his dad gets up to retrieve a drink, Y steals his waffle, although completely unable to contain his dimpled grin. I watch him closely trying to read how he is really feeling. I asked him about the conversation he had with the ref. Y explained that as an outside receiver, he is taught to check with the ref as to whether he is off sides or not.
After the first play, the ref said, “Hey, number 20, come here a minute.”
Y said the ref asked him what he was supposed to do when he was asked by a player if they were off sides. Y gave a quick tutorial to the ref of the proper hand signals of when he was on the line, and when he was off. He then ran to catch up to the team in the time-out huddle. The same thing happened on the other side. When he was pulled out one play later, his coached asked what the problem was. Y explained he was holding a clinic for the referees and doing the best he could under the circumstances. We (Y nor I) don’t particularly care for this assistant coach. He thinks an awful lot of himself, despite the obvious fact that he shouldn’t. Perhaps then, I delighted – a little too much- when Y told me a bird pooped on this coach during the game. (Aw- Is this a tender mercy?)
The more I thought about Y’s response when he walked in the door, the more I began to wonder. . . Maybe this isn’t nearly as hard on Y as it is on me. Maybe there really isn’t too much pain in the process. Maybe he is able to claim joy through the journey and fall into the safety net of his faith and support groups when things are hard for a moment. Maybe- I just need to be reprogrammed. . .

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Anywhere - Anything

Two weeks ago, post game left me bitter and angry. That whole week, I found myself mentally composing an email to the head football coach. It included sharp directness regarding the inefficiencies of the coaching staff. I restrained. (much effort required) Instead, I sent a note indicating that I had been reflecting on where we were a year ago with B and his injury. I expressed gratitude for how he was treated and respected despite his inability to physically help his team on the field. The coach replied with an insightful message given Y's struggles this season.
He said,"Tough days for sure…proof that if you hang in…have faith…and a great support network…anything is possible!"
Y has hung in there. His coaches responded with a little playing time this week. I watched him closely. He does his part; does it well- just has limited opportunities. What does he have faith in? I asked Y. He said "You know - all the everyday things: power of prayer, scripture power, Christ, TSM (Thomas S. Monson), parental advice.". I asked him where faith in those things would get him. His response- "Anywhere!"
The support network- that's me, and his dad, brother, sister, friends, extended family, and beyond. It's deep- a dedicated group.
Y has great faith and wisdom, as he continues to exercise it, truly anything IS possible.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Best Is Yet To Come

Does it make him more likable? Most people you come in contact with were not football stars in high school.
I was interviewed yesterday by Y. He had to interview someone regarding his own talents and possibilities for his future. He chose me because he said, "You know me best!"
It's true and what a blessing not only to know him, but to be able to claim him. The first question was to list some of his talents. That was easy- "You're smart, socially aware, hard working, optimistic, and athletic". His brother added humorous-so true!
Then he asked what would make him a good employee. I replied, "Everything about you!"
He smiles. "Is that what I should write?"
He is an amazing person. He will be respected and well liked his entire life because of who he is and how he treats people. I do see him succeeding in athletics, perhaps at the next level when his height and girth match up a little better with his shoe size.
Until then, there will be some hard days- like today.
I am on my way home from his game tonight. It's a beautiful community 2 1/2 hours away. He thought he would play. He didn't. I met him on the sidelines after the team's final huddle. I handed him a sack dinner for the long ride home. He was shivering and his lips were blue as he quivered out a "thank you".
I think these experiences are preparing him for future opportunities. I think people will always be able to relate to him; thus expanding his ability to connect to, work with, and even serve people throughout his life. For now, I think it will keep him humble, and I hope it inspires him turn to the Lord. Today-for peace and reassurance of His love, and always- for direction in all areas of his life.
"Hang in there Y. The best is yet to come. "

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It Sucked Not Getting An Opportunity

Years ago- before the car accident- when I would feel this way, I’d go for a run and silently thank the bonehead coach for a good workout. Since I have yet to regain strength in my joints enough to run, I have to channel my angst another direction. Let’s just say they were nearly perfect: crispy on the outside, soft and chewy inside and oh! the melted chocolate!
Last night we were home against a team we thought would be a tough opponent. With the score of 27-0 after the first quarter, we realized all the talent was at the Varsity level. That was great news for us as we assumed it would mean some time for our #20. We waited and waited…and waited. Finally with 8:36 left in the fourth quarter, we get to see Y warm up his quarterback on the sidelines. This is the quarterback Y says he makes look good in practice with his amazing one-handed leaping catches that get replayed in the kitchen after practice. #12 (qb) was sent into the game. Y held the football, waiting to be sent in as his receiver. Unfortunately the first string receivers were still getting all the reps. That’s it. That’s how the game ended. #20 never left the sidelines.
I became frustrated with the coaching staff, or rather those who termed themselves such. Was it really that hard to rotate some kids in and give them an opportunity, essentially thank them for working hard in practice every day? Especially with a score like 27-0? I tried to distract myself with household business as I waited for Y to come home. As I saw the lights of his car slowly coming down the driveway, I seemed to become increasingly angry at the entire football program. How dare they ask me to make them brownies when they can’t even rotate my kid into the ball game! It was raw Mama Bear anger!
Y comes into the kitchen. I try to play it cool. I fail. It went something like this:
I asked Y if he wanted to go hit something.
He said no.
“Throw something? “
He said “No.”
“Slit someone’s tires?”
He said “No.”
“Go for a run?”
He said “No. I have homework.”
“Make someone poisonous brownies?”
He said “No.”
I said “You’re not angry?”
He said “No.” Then he added, “It sucked not getting an opportunity. But I’m not angry, Mom. But if it would make you feel better, you can make cookies.”
And so I did. . .