Friday, September 30, 2011

A Day of Firsts - The Football and Soccer Extravaganza

A beautiful sunny day awaited us as we all rose on Saturday morning.  The JMR household on Saturdays and Sundays – once reserved for donuts, chocolate milk and SpongeBob Squarepants – are now all about two things, Football and Soccer.  More importantly, today was going to be a day of firsts.  C’s first game as the primary pass-catcher for his 4th grade Pop Warner football team, G’s first football game as a starter and DLG’s first soccer game, ever.  Honestly, the parents in this house were more excited than the children and we had to hold back our excitement and nervousness so as not frighten the impressionable children.

9am.  G’s First Game.  After a humbling loss in our first varsity game the weekend before, the junior varsity team was finally playing its first game.  Yours truly was a co-head coach of the junior varsity team, an honor only if you enjoy 25 2nd graders asking you to play a certain position and generally complaining about being thirsty.  But my hard work was going to pay off in this game.  And G was starting left tackle.  Michael Oher might have been proud (if we threw the ball, of course). 

The game got underway with a quick touchdown from the opposing team followed shortly by a touchdown of our own led by some superb blocking from the left side of the line.  This was going to be a much different game than last week, I could just tell.  G was excited too, blocking everyone near him and getting tossed around like a rag doll sometimes.  It didn’t matter, he was having fun.  And on a kickoff by the opposing team, G’s excitement on the front line of the kickoff return team came bounding through.  Catching the ball on the fly, he started to run.  He had dreams of touchdowns in his mind.  Unfortunately, he was stopped about two steps after moving forward by the opposing team.  It didn’t matter, he was excited (and so was I). 

Although we ended up losing 26-14, I saw a lot of good things from everyone, and G was as proud as a seven year old could be.

10:30am.  DLG’s First Game.  We’ve been through this same soccer program before with her two older brothers.  Strutting as a peacock didn’t begin to describe her emotions when I told her all four of us were going to watch HER play soccer.  Usually it was the other way around.  At 10:50, G and I arrive to the soccer pitch to find the mad scramble of children learning the game.  I call it a pitch but it’s the outfield of a school’s baseball field.  Just in time though to catch DLG’s eye as she was practicing.  She was bounding up and down the practice field and when she saw us, she waved and started strutting around, hoping we all saw her Freddy Adu-like skills.

When the game started, however she was starting goaltender.  That’s ok I thought, I taught her how to stop the ball and scoop it up.  Besides, I can position myself right behind the goal to give her some “friendly advice.”

"Stop coaching and let her play!”  MM scolds.  I back away, just as she is replaced in goal, only to start playing defense.  A lot of running in bunches ensued and despite her valiant effort, her team – the Purple Sharks – go down in defeat 3-0.  That doesn’t matter though, because after the game DLG comes up to me and asks me if I saw her play.  Well, yes sweetheart, didn’t you see me coaching you from behind the goal?

10:00am Sunday.  Nine year old C has been working hard all year to get to this game.  He’s starting right end for the game, and for all you Pop Warner coaches, you know what that means.  He’s the one player who will be thrown the ball.  It might be quick outs, quick post patterns or halfback options, but the one constant at this level is that if you throw the ball, you throw it to one position – the Right End.

When I saw C inserted at Right End, I knew that there was going to be a pass play.  And lo and behold, five plays in, the Right End goes on a post pattern.  The Quarterback, C’s best friend and next door neighbor, heaves the ball up…and he catches the ball over the defender for a 25 yard gain!  The first executed pass play for this team…ever.  Watching from the far end zone, I start running down the sideline screaming “Nice catch 57!!” while a bunch of parents look at me like I’m about to eat their children.  As I run to the bleachers, I then see a penalty flag – ineligible man down field – are you kidding me?  They call that in fourth grade football?  And just like that the play is returned.  Two more passes that day ended in an interception and an incomplete pass (albeit as a result of interference).  Still the team won 20-8, and no one can take away that first catch. 

Two days and three proud moments for Dad.  Not bad.  And I can’t wait to become one of “those” parents.

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