Did any of you even know that travel football was a thing? I didn’t either. Well, until about 3 weeks ago when Connor’s dad mentioned it was apparently a thing and that there was an opportunity to try out for a team not too far
(far enough to be annoying) from home. That isn’t the travel part.
As soon as Connor heard about the team, he was 100% planning on being a part of it. I’d honestly prayed and prayed when Connor was little he would fall in love with football. I know, doesn’t every mom? Oh, no? Well, I did. I am pretty certain that the idea of the weekend and a couple of days away from school wasn’t nearly as exciting to some of my friends and me as the idea of Friday night football was in the fall. It was everything. And then I fell in love with college ball, too. Not my college, to be clear. I’m kind of a jerk like that. But, NCAA games? Yes, all the football.
So naturally, when Connor started leaning towards football (and slightly away from soccer), I was sad! I was sad because I love watching him play soccer but as soon as the option came up for him to play rocket (with pads), he did. He hasn’t looked back since and now I almost regret my initial desires because he doesn’t. ever. stop. talking. about. FOOTBALL. Go ahead. Ask him some questions. I’ll plan to catch up with you later.
The tryouts were held on a Sunday and I was nervous for him, but at the same time, have faith in his ability. He’s a solid player, but he’s also wicked smart. I love watching him read a play and, subsequently, attack. I actually encouraged him this season before one of the games to ‘hit someone really hard today.’ I had to pause after saying it, but I guess it’s ok in this context. Right? I meant it in love.
He made the team that day tryouts were held and the really neat part of it is that he’s part of a team with some of the best little 10-11 year-olds in the area (including one of his little buddies from Hopkins, Owen) … so he’s making new friends and also learning a lot. Oh, and getting hit way, way harder than he’s used to.
We had our first tournament this past weekend in Kalamazoo. That isn’t really the travel part, either. This coming weekend we’ll be near Louisville, KY. That feels like the travel part. I’ll let you know.
Anyway, I will be honest and say I was nervous for the team’s first game. These young men have come from a number of schools and practiced together three times. They are all super-talented, but they haven’t had enough time together to truly meld as a team. I was also nervous because I couldn’t feel my face. Between the rain and the wind, you basically had the perfect recipe for football. #sarcasm
So the team? They didn’t play a stellar game. There were definite kinks that would need to be ironed out, but frankly, they had to get a game under their belts to know that. We’d only had one on the schedule that day and they finished with a 0-6 loss. It wasn’t all that bad considering circumstances but still, losses are hard, you know?
Connor had been so excited for the game, the experience even. But that excitement was short-lived. See, Connor is used to playing with his rocket league where he plays both ways the entire game. On that wet afternoon, CJ was in the game for three plays. (I will say that he killed it on those three plays; his first one resulted in him creating and recovering a fumble!). When halftime rolled around, he looked at me with wet eyes and made a comment about his playing time. I told him to hang in there; that there was plenty of game left to play.
At the end, when the team wrapped up their post-game chat, CJ walked over to his dad and I and let all of the emotion show. It was so hard to watch, but I tried to encourage him to be tough (at least for the moment).
We had to run a couple of errands on the way home and as we got closer, he said, ‘Mom, I just wanted to go have fun today but I didn’t expect that I would only get in for three plays.’
He had the biggest gator tears. This was hard for him. As we pulled in the garage, I couldn’t help but get emotional too (mom of the year, right here y’all!) as I shared with him that there are going to be times when life seems wholly unfair; that we can’t understand why the coach wouldn’t put us in the game when we know in our hearts we are capable of so much. But it’s in those moments that we have the opportunity to decide how to respond; we get to pick if we’re going to get upset and sulk on the sidelines or choose to enjoy the experience … to choose joy. Because it’s all up to us. It’s that choice that sets the tone and direction for what’s next. And at the end of the day, we can’t control what happens around us anymore than we can control the fact that they said it wouldn’t rain on Sunday. But we can certainly do us. We hugged it out and headed inside to watch … more football.
On Sunday, we talked on the way to the first of two games and I asked him how the day was going to go. He told me he had decided he was going to choose joy, regardless of how much time he’d spend on the field. I told him I was proud of him and looked forward to seeing how hard he would work regardless. Just before his game started, he walked up to me with a giant grin and said, ‘Hey, mom. I’m starting on offense.’ His eyes were wide and I could see that little spark that was missing the day prior. I told him this was his opportunity to show the coaches what he’s capable of and that, of course, I believed in him. I think I even grabbed his face mask and shook it a little. Oops.
He started on offense and ultimately found his way into that linebacker position he’s got such heart for later that game and into game two. The team won one and lost one that day, but CJ wasn’t concerned about the record. He was thankful for the opportunity (and his dirty uniform) and can’t wait until this coming weekend.
Who knows? CJ may find himself in the position he did on Saturday at some point again in the future. If he’s anything like his mom he will. Ha! That’s a joke. Oh c’mon, I’m not even crying
But if he does? I won’t lie and say that I pray with every ounce of my being, he remembers that moment in the car and that despite all of the feelings he’s experiencing at that moment, that he takes one long deep breath and chooses joy.