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Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

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To Ball or not to Ball: a coach’s wife’s heartfelt ranking on risk and reward

I am a huge football fan, and we are a huge football family. From my high school ball-coaching husband and pee wee player sons, to my grown daughters (one a Georgia Bulldog, the other a Tennessee Volunteer), we live for Friday nights under the lights and Saturdays out in the sun. But I have to tell you, all this talk of opening up summer practice has me torn.

Right now, my husband’s after-school profession and my family’s biggest passion and beloved pastime is under some serious scrutiny as the Powers-that-Be determine what, when, how (and even whether) to get the preseason conditioning and practices under way.

My heart is so torn. I know the risks and I know the rewards.

The risks can be great. My daughter is a doctor out in Dallas. The most-serious cases in all of North Texas are treated in a COVID-unit in her hospital. She tells me how the virus ravages patients, both with preexisting conditions and without. She knows how impossible it is to predict whose body can handle a coronavirus attack and whose can’t.

But I also know the risk for high school football players is minimal. Only 2% of confirmed COVID-19 cases are children, and of those, only 6% or so are hospitalized. Even with the growing awareness of the dangerous Pediatric Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome that’s been in the news lately, the risk to our players is incredibly small.

So odds are, our boys can huddle up, knock helmets, throw passes, and swap sweat and oxygen without adverse consequences. So what happens on the practice field isn’t what worries me.

No, I am far more worried about what happens in the weight room.

These boys lift A LOT of weight. They huff and puff and pump themselves up before pressing ginormous poundage. They use spotters. And those spotters stand directly behind and/or above the weightlifters’ faces. They exhale and inhale each other’s air. Six-foot social distancing is impossible. Ingestion of respiration droplets is inescapable.

And while the boys themselves are probably going to be just fine, they ARE potential carriers who can share the virus at home with parents and grandparents — some with compromised immune systems, some without. (And again, that doesn’t necessarily predict relative safety or risk.)

Also, a recent study out of South Korea reveals over 1000 COVID cases there were linked to fitness classes, at an attack rate of 26.3%. The exhaled breath of athletes under physical exertion causes more dense transmission of isolated droplets. That, paired with unpredictable air flow, increases the contagion factor dramatically. And facemasks during heavy exercise can cause dizziness and fainting. So… not ideal.

The air in the field house weight room will be steamy and full of exhaled air, recirculating through a multitude of lungs, coaches’ included. And that is what worries me on a selfish and personal level. Coaches fall within age ranges far more susceptible to the virus. And those coaches can likewise inadvertently carry the virus home to wives and family members who may be susceptible.

Yes, there are definite variables and risks involved in starting football back up for the summer. But then, I also understand there are rewards.

The rewards for these coaches and their players are tremendous. Because football is so much more than just a game. It is a commitment and it is a calling, but most importantly, it is a family. And that family has a legacy — a legacy left by hometown heroes to current family members, who will carry and leave that legacy for future generations to come.

The tradition of football is strong: the heart, the commitment, the discipline, the family, the legacy.. these are the rewards. And to miss a season would be a tragedy. But then, so would unnecessary deaths or debilitating lifelong conditions for players, coaches, families, and fans.

I guess there are risks and rewards to be considered with every decision that comes with life. And for this wife of a football coach, teacher of football players, and mother of a physician daughter, the risks and rewards are weighing heavy on my heart. I love my family. I love my football. I love my football family.

For the time being, I’ll wait on the Powers-that-Be. And depending on what they decide, my family and football families around the nation will need to make weighty decisions of our own. May God grant us wisdom as we move into this new season of a pandemic preseason.

(And may He also guide medical science to wipe this virus from the face of the earth so that the only face-masks we have to worry about are of the 15-yard penalty variety.)

Seasons Come, Seasons Go, but Football Family Remains

Our football season ended Friday night with a loss in the quarterfinals — in the last minute and a half. It was a heartbreaker. But there are no losers on this team.

The seniors have a four year record of 52-3. That’s a heckuva lot of wins. But the real wins aren’t what’s translated in the record books. The real wins are what’s translated in the boys’ hearts.

And boy, do these players have heart.

The love they shared on the field Friday and on hudl messages and tweets — it showcases the love they have forged through the highs and lows of this and every season they’ve played together.

You hear a lot about how football hardens bodies and builds work ethic.

But football also softens hearts. And breaks them. And Friday night’s loss broke so many hearts, including mine.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Because hearts that soften and hearts that break are hearts that feel and hearts that connect. And to me, the most powerful part of football is how it takes individuals and makes them not just teammates — which you hear a lot about — but more importantly family.

And this team is truly a family.

And the men showing these boys how to harden those muscles and hone their work ethic are also the ones showing them how to soften their hearts — to let in their feelings and let out their emotions.

These coaches are not afraid to yell at their players. Not in the least. But they also aren’t afraid to say “I love you” to the boys — and mean it.

And this weekend, I heard a whole bunch of hurting coaches tell their hurting players “I love you.” And I saw a whole lot of hurting players tell each other “I love you.”

I saw a lot of players huddled up, shoulder pad to shoulder pad with tears bunched up in eyes and streaming down cheeks. 

Tears over loss, but also tears over love.

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These boys are becoming men. The best sort of men. The men who aren’t afraid to fight hard yes, but to love hard too. Men who can lead through both triumph and adversity. And Friday night, they triumphed through their adversity and led one another — and the rest of us — through the first stages of grief.

And while we all grieve over this loss, it was ultimately just a game that we lost. And we have so much to be thankful for. And so many harder things we could be grieving…

Last weekend, a football coach in Indiana passed away after suffering a stroke in a playoff game.

Coach Bowsman had coached in his community for 20 years. He was head coach for the past 16. Through two decades of love and sacrifice, he built a football family that is now mourning a deep, true, and profound loss.

And this past week, Coach Bowsman continued his life of sacrifice through organ donation. On Wednesday, his football family lined the hospital hallways for an Honor Walk as he traveled one last time from ICU to the OR. And over the weekend, his football community (and nearly the entire state) burned stadium lights in his honor as his family held services and laid his body to rest.

Football goes so much farther than a win/loss record or memories of the glory days.

Football leaves a lasting impact far greater than most can imagine until we see and hear stories like these.

Those of us fortunate enough to be in a football family, we feel the impact of football on our lives all the time… in the form of a hug in the hallway, or a greeting in a grocery store, in the graduation celebrations of a struggling student athlete, or a text from a former player about the birth of a baby or the death of a parent. And sometimes you get a message about the death of a football family member. 

When you are football family, the impact rarely goes unfelt.

And while we feel all the literal wins and losses, it’s the wins and losses in LIFE we feel most profoundly. 

Football itself is ultimately just a game. But the family it builds… that’s real. And that’s what makes the game so very special.

Photo Creds: Russell Andrews, Marion Mills Webb, Randy Parker & Natalie Perkins

A Gridiron Gathering for Playoffsgiving

It’s Thanksgiving week — a week for gratitude and gatherings, and in our house, a week of five family events full of food. Five. And of those five, three are packed to overflowing with our football family.

And for that, I am so very thankful.

#1– because I love them.

And #2– because that means we’re still in the playoffs — Round 3, the quarterfinals.

Today, we hosted a roster-load of boys for lunch after practice — my husband’s position players and the ones I’ve taught in my classroom. It’s becoming a Thanksgiving tradition.

My heart bursts with love and pride for these boys and the program that guides and goads them through the myriad sacrifices football demands. These boys are called to this sport. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t do it. It’s just too tough, too grueling.

But these players have embraced the grind. And I’m thankful they have because they make my life so much fuller and richer as a result.

Pouring some love into them by way of lasagna is my attempt to give back to these hard-working, hard-fighting boys. They’re honestly some of my favorite humans in all the world.

Some are dark-skinned and some are light-skinned, some are freckled and some are fair. Some have mullets, others buzz cuts; some have high fades, others ‘fros.

A few drive pickups, a couple, clunkers, a good many catch rides from the rest. They are random parts offense, mostly-parts defense, and a couple parts playing both ways.

They come from all walks of life and from all parts of town… and they’ve all taken up residence in my heart.

Today, this mixed crew of kiddos sang karaoke in our basement, shot some really bad pool, played backyard football, and consumed three entire lasagnas, six loaves of garlic bread, four dozen chocolate chip cookies, a pan-and-a-half of red velvet brownies, and 64 bottled waters. Oh, and two —count them, TWO — ate some salad. (Their mothers are insanely proud right now.)

These boys have big appetites and big dreams.

And I see every last one of them scoring those dreams. I really do. Because they work harder at life than I ever dreamed of working at their age.

They’re something special. Like, really special.

And there’s nothing more satisfying for me as a mom, teacher, and coach’s wife than seeing a bunch of really big boys I love dearly fill up their plates and fill up their bellies.

It fills up my heart to overflowing.

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