My son Ben started football practice this week. He goes through about a 5 day "conditioning" stage with no pads, then progresses on to full-pad practices after that. They will be practicing 3-4 days a week from now through mid-October when they finish up.
I must say his attitude toward football is totally different this year. He started preparing a few days before his first practice by doing some sit-ups and push ups. He's taking charge and making sure he's ready for practice and has not griped about being sore, or not wanting to go to practice. He has matured significantly in the past 3-4 months in many ways, and, believe me, its a beautiful thing to see. On top of that when he walked in the door after being in NY for a week, it looked like he had grown 2 inches in a week. He's like his father, thin, lean and lanky. He seems to have hit a growth spurt and is showing no signs of slowing.
I went to pick him up from practice yesterday and got there a few minutes early to see how the new coach was working out. It was refreshing to see Ben and his teammates "clapping" a struggling player to the end line during some sprints. They went out to where the big kid was and ran alongside him and encouraged him to finish strong.
Now, if my son gets nothing else out of his whole football career, I think this practice is enough to make him a better person. If we cannot "clap each other in" in life, then what kind of people are we? Kids need to see this, practice it, and know that others would do the same for them. If people would treat each other as teammates (especially in the realm of politics) instead of opponents, the world would be a better place, agreed?
Much like Ben, I played football in 6th through 9th grade. I LOVED IT. It was what I lived for as a kid. Also like Ben, I was small for my age. I was a starter, but it was just an intramural league, nowhere near as organized as what he is going through. I remember the director of the league would show up in his Ford Galaxy rag top, open the trunk and we'd all have to pick a helmet. If you got there late, you got the crappy, ill-fitting helmet. Concussions didn't happen. If they did, they were not recognized as such.
Today things are much more closely regulated, and I think that's for the better. We had fun, but it was a different time. Our culture was not sue-happy and sports were not elevated to the insane level they are now. It's all good, both then and now. I can't wait to see where it takes him, especially if he decides to play in High School. Hope he does. He's my son, and he makes me proud.