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Spring Ball: Football and its Families Prepare for The Grind

It is May in Georgia. The days lean toward summer, growing warm and husky with the promise of rain. Clouds stack on the horizon and flit fast across fields, green and fresh and striped with the first mow of the season – along with the first paint. Spring Ball has arrived.

It’s a time of anticipation and adjustment – for a team and its coaches and their families, as well. The melanin and muscle and mercury are rising — the summer’s preparing to grind. And so are the coaches’ wives.

Spring ball is a time to stretch out those long-dormant football legs. To remember the rigor, to shift and rebalance the weight, to recondition the brain and the body for the upcoming football season.

As the coaches tweak their playbooks, the wives tweak their mindsets. As the depth charts take shape on their husband’s clipboards, the duty rosters get shifted at home. Laundry loads double with work clothes, plus practice gear. The cooking and dishes all rest upon her. Then there’s bath time and story time and bedtime and more.

The job of a coach’s wife is demanding. She one platoons their home life: scrambling and blocking and taking heat in the pocket; rushing and tackling and offering up pass protection where needed. Running offense AND defense is a fine balance. Maintaining that balance requires strength and focus, and passion and love – not just for her husband and family, but also for the game. Without passion and love of the game, resentment can take hold. Not everyone’s cut out for the job.

And the job of a coach is demanding. It brings long hours, low pay, and high turnover. The weight of responsibility brings bags to his eyes and weights to his shoulders. He juggles politics from parents, school systems and fans. He demands excellence from his players, and in return the fans demand excellence from him. Stress levels rise. Maintaining the balance requires strength and focus, and also passion and love – not just for the game, but for his wife and family. Without passion and love for his family, resentment can take hold. Not everyone’s cut out for the job.

Strength and Focus; Passion and Love. Without them, football will defeat you. When things get heavy (which they always do) the weight can get one-sided. It can topple you. You have to find balance. Strength and focus on one side, passion and love on the other. And then you have to maintain it.

Football families redistribute their balance in the spring. We put our bodies and our minds through the paces. We tweak our playbooks and our attitudes. As the mercury rises, our muscle memory takes over and we find ourselves ready.  Ready for the grind.

It is May in Georgia. The days lean toward summer, growing warm and husky with the promise of a football reign. Spring Ball is here.

For the New Wife on the Team

For the new Wife on the Team:

It’s a daunting challenge, joining a new coaching family. There’s a whole lot of feeling your way around and searching for a niche.

It’s an uncomfortable place to be and can feel incredibly isolating – especially if you don’t have biological family close by to help with the kids and the nerves and the insecurities. Because there are ALWAYS insecurities when you’re with a new team. Always.

In the beginning, you usually feel more apart from than a part of a new football program.

I vividly recall two lonely seasons not long ago where I was completely apart from the other coaches’ wives. It was just me and my twin babies, a stroller loaded with a pantry full of snacks, and a haunting suspicion that in the whole grand scheme of things, no one on staff besides my very own coach gave a darn about whether or not we were ok.

Every Friday night, I hunkered down in the far corner of an end zone because we couldn’t navigate the stadium risers on our own (and no one ever offered to help). So we dodged band instruments and blazing-fast receivers. And we stood apart and alone.

One of my favorite social media hash tags is #footballisfamily. Sadly, there was no family on that football team.

Now, however, thanks to the grace of God, my personal little football family has found itself in the midst of a football program that is all about family. There is true connectivity and support amongst the coaches’ wives on our current team. There are welcome notes and survival baskets at the beginning of the season. There are group texts for reminders and updates throughout the fall. There are generous hugs and helping hands in the stands on Friday nights. And there are potluck dinners and hearty conversations in the field house after games.

This is what the hash tag #footballisfamily should be about.

So I’m writing this blog — not for the new wife, but for the established wives in your football family.

I’m writing this as a gentle reminder that all of us have been there. We’ve all been the New Wife — the one no one knows. And sadly, some of us have even been the New Wife that no one ever knows… the one that no one ever reaches out to before the transient nature of the football life has its way with us, and we move on to our next location and our next potential football family.

So I’m writing as a reminder that football SHOULD be family.

Don’t be the wife who never reaches out to welcome the new member. Don’t be the one who assumes someone else will do it — somebody else will check up on her because you, you with the twin toddlers and the teaching job and gazillion essays to grade and gazillion students to nurture and never-ending dishes and laundry and dusting to do (well, you get the picture), you are helmet-deep in The Grind and you just can’t do a single thing more.

Ah, The Grind – the world-famous Football Grind.

It weeds out the unworthy. It leaves the weak in the dust. It measures mental and physical toughness and true character. It ensures that when you’ve given it your all, there’s still more of you to give – to your team. Because football is not a solo sport.

For any team to be successful, it is well understood that every single member must fully embrace The Grind.

And we wives are no exception. We have to be tough and driven and full of desire. And we must always be willing to push through the fatigue and give just a little bit more – for our football family – at home and in the home stands (and away ones, for that matter).

So push through your fatigue, coaches’ wives. Find your reserves and be the New Wife’s Left Tackle. Cover her blind side. Show her the ropes. Send her the welcomes and the updates and the encouragement. Help her wrangle her nerves and her kids in this brand new stadium.

Give her love and support and encouragement and bathroom breaks. (Nobody ever thinks of the bathroom breaks.) Help her become a part of the team.

Correction, help her become a part of the family.

Because Football… it really is family.

There are Three of Us in This Marriage: Confessions of a Football Wife

There are three of us in my marriage. I knew I’d be sharing my husband when I married him. And I also knew it wouldn’t be easy.

I get jealous sometimes. (Who am I kidding? I get jealous a lot.)

Because the third member is demanding and competitive and physical and fast. Oh, and hot — incredibly, extraordinarily HOT. And then there’s all the penetration. So much penetration. (For this one, it’s all about the grind!)

And I can’t compete with that. (Well, I could, but it’s not really me. I’m the quiet, reserved one in this marriage.)

So I support. And watch. And cheer him on. And I’ve been told that’s hot too. ;b

You see, my husband is a high school football coach, and he’s been married to the game for a really, really, long time. They were a thing long before he and I were a thing. And when we started dating, I had to come to terms with the rules of engagement.

But lucky for me, I love the game, too. I had worshiped it from afar nearly my entire life. I was drawn to its passion and intensity. And then I got incredibly lucky and was able to merge the two loves of my life in holy matrimony. And we’ve been happily married for the last six years. And I love it, I really, really do.

But like I said, sometimes I get jealous.

Football has its way with my husband six nights a week, five months out of every year — plus summers and even a couple of weeks in May. It steals a lot of his time… our time.

That means I don’t get many candlelit dinners and date nights in the fall. (Who am I kidding? As a family with twin boys, we don’t get many of those ANY season — but definitely not during football season.)

Needless to say, because of its unforgiving nature, football can be a homewrecker if you aren’t careful. So you have to be vigilant. And creative. And snag time whenever and wherever you can.

And since Spring Ball just ended for us after a hot and heavy ten days of full contact, Mike and I will be making the most of it for the next two weeks (before summer workouts begin…).

We’ll be eating cozy dinners together — as we referee our forty-pound, twin four-year-old boys while they fight over parental time and attention. Having Daddy home to help share the love (and war) every night is a blessing that I relish while it lasts. And while that may not sound very sexy to you, it is more than a tad bit sexy to me.

And we’ll be spending a lot of time in bubble baths — wrestling those forty-pound twin four-year-olds into and out of the water. Having Daddy home to help snag the slippery little suckers and wrangle them into pajamas every night is a blessing that I cherish while it lasts.  And while that may not sound sexy to you, it is mega-sexy to me.

And we’ll be snuggling up on the couch – with two forty-pound four-year-olds in our laps demanding four stories, complete with sound effects and occasional hand motions. Having Daddy there to read while I administer asthma and allergy meds every night is a blessing I treasure while it lasts. And while that might not sound sexy to you, it is super sexy to me.

And we’ll be giving and receiving a whole lot of loving in bed – as we tuck those two forty-pound four-year-old boys of ours beneath the covers and sing them lullabies. Having Daddy there to give real-life kisses instead of surrogate ones every night is a blessing I hold dear while it lasts. And while that might not sound sexy to you, it is uber-sexy to me.

And we’ll be taking a couple of vacations – family ones — and by family vacations, I mean our little family will be visiting our larger, extended family (including the boys’ big sisters) during the dead weeks between now and the start of football season.Having Daddy there to help contain and entertain twin preschoolers on incredibly long and arduous cross-country road trips to see the people we love most in the world may not sound very sexy to you, but I find it sexy as hell. (Well, the travel will be hell, but my husband — he’s sexy.)

Now don’t get me wrong. My coaching husband and I do have some time to celebrate US with just the two of us. We do. We make time. And sometimes it’s as simple as popcorn in bed while we catch up on our crime dramas and each other. But we do manage to squeeze in the occasional candle-lit date night, too. We even have one planned for tonight. Mike set it up and surprised me with it.

And I think that’s ANYBODY’S definition of sexy.

Yes, there are three of us in this relationship (not to mention a couple of forty-pound preschool boys). And sometimes it feels like football gets more time and attention and energy than the boys and I ever do. It is definitely demanding. And physical. And competitive. And passionate. But boy, is it HOT.

Football – and my coaching husband – they’re HOT.

So, it’s always worth the work. It’s always worth the grind. As a matter of fact, it’s all about the grind. And that, my friends, is sexy.

Football Gives me All the Feels: Confessions of a Coach’s Wife

It’s the beginning of the football season once again, and there’s not too much I can say about the football life of a football wife that I haven’t said before.

You already know I love it. And you already know it makes me crazy. Some days I can’t sing its praises enough. Others, I want to wring its disembodied little intangible neck. It robs me of time and it showers me with blessings.

It is a paradox of ginormous proportions.

This past Sunday morning I sat on my back porch, the silken and slippery humid air settling and sliding off my limbs, making everything feel slow and sweet simply because it was Sunday morning.  You know, all easy like.

So I breathed in the easy. I breathed in the sweet, succulent calm, and I held it deep down in core of my soul.  And there it remains. My future calm in the storm of the impending football season.

Wordsworth was fueled by powerful emotions recollected in tranquility. Me, I’m fueled by the opposite: tranquility recollected during powerful emotions. Because starting tomorrow, and for the next five months, my life will be FILLED with powerful emotions. Wave after wave of powerful emotions. No doubt about it.

Starting with love. I’ve always had a hard, strong love for the game. It began in middle school, when I fell hard for the Dallas Cowboys of my youth and the TCU Horned Frogs of my hometown. This was no puppy love. It was true and it was deep and it was eternal.

And with that love comes butterflies – a tickling, nervous anticipation every, single game night. When I see those stadium lights, haloed in the gloaming, sparkling with the wings of a thousand frenzied moths, saluted by the cheers of a thousand frenzied fans, my belly goes downright giddy.

But along with all the love comes intense jealousy — jealousy of the time it steals away from our family, the demands it puts on the man we love most. It keeps him from us for most of the week and it keeps him from most of what our family holds most sacred: meal times and bath times and story times and bed.

He came home late the other night – for the third time this week — calves flecked with paint from lining the field. It was well past the boys’ bedtime. They had missed him. Again. And they had said so. Again. Several times. And it’s only the first week of many, many weeks we will miss him this season.

So yeah, I get jealous sometimes — of the time that it takes. And sometimes it makes me sad. And sometimes it makes me mad. Like that other night, when Mike came home late, all paint-flecked calves and sweat-stained shirt and flat-out worn-out…

But when I saw him, a calm settled over me, my Sunday Morning Calm. I remembered. I remembered that this is my love — this man and this sport. This is my life and this is my destiny — a destiny written long ago, in the helmeted stars of America’s team.

Yep, football makes me crazy. And happy. And angry. And happy. And jealous. And happy. And frantic. And happy. And, well, you name it, I feel it. All the feels. The great, big, powerful feels. Except for sorry. Football never makes me feel sorry.

 

What it Takes to Be a Football Family

It is mid-June. Summer hasn’t even officially begun– the solstice hits this week – but already the father of my children is helmet-deep in football camp and has been for nearly a month.

I am married to a high school football coach. My twin toddlers have a high school football coach for a dad. He is one heck of a father, one heck of a husband, and one heck of a coach. And as another season grinds its way into gear, I’ve been thinking a lot about how football and being a football family demand a lot of similar physical and emotional commitments.

Football, and being a football family, takes teamwork. And luckily, my husband and I make a damn good team. In his football job on game nights, my husband is up in the booth — away from the field, but very much in on the action. His daddy job at home is not that much different. He’s not on the field (football keeps him away from home most days until just before the boys’ bedtime and sometimes not even then), but he’s very much in on the action. He monitors, helps make adjustments, keeps me motivated, and provides endless emotional support. There’s no way I could run this program without him.

Football, and being a football family, takes hard work and dedication. The two of us have accentuated the importance of routine and fundamentals with our twins from the get-go. Nap times and dinner times and screen times and bedtimes are established and rarely vary. The boys know and understand our expectations, which provides me immeasurable advantage when I’m putting them through their paces alone at home during the season. They are disciplined and –for the most part – dedicated to the routine. But that doesn’t mean things can’t go wrong in an instant. Blitzes can still blindside me. Take downs can occur. Turnovers can and do happen. But discipline and vision can shift that momentum right back to the proper side again, just like in football.

Which brings me to how football, and being a football family, requires a solid game plan. Without one, your team will rarely be victorious. And even if you do have one in place, you won’t always get the W. Still, it is pure insanity to play ball without one. Since most of our family’s day-to-day offense is on this mama’s shoulders during season, our schemes must be solid and darn-near foolproof. I’ve come to rely on zone blocking and a solid running game. There’s no time for huddle (and no one around to huddle with even if there were time). Now most days, everything goes according to plan. But regardless of the amount of reps and hands-on instruction you’ve given, execution is rarely without flaws. Balls get dropped. Occasionally a player goes down. Penalties are accrued. Mama’s nerves get sacked. And that’s where my coaching husband and father to my children excels most.

I’m talking motivation, here. Because football, and being a football family, requires motivation. Twins can make life crazy. And when you’re going it alone for the vast majority of the season, you need both inner and outer motivation. With husband in my corner, I have the outside motivation covered. He knows how to give just the right pep talk to pull me back into the game, more energized and ready to succeed than before. But for those times when he’s not available for consult – those times when I have to get up, dust myself off and execute the game plan without anyone else around to bounce off ideas, I have to dig deep and rely on those hard-and-fast fundamentals. I have to trust the vision, to do what we do, run what we run, and believe in our teamwork and tenacity. We’ve tried to plan for every possible scenario, to account for every gap, and to have the flexibility to take what comes at us and roll with it.

Yes, football and being a football family requires physical demands and emotional commitments from everyone involved. And not everyone is cut out for it. There are so many lonely dinners and difficult bath times. There are so many rushed labor-day cookouts and daddy-less trick-or-treats. There are so many tears from kids who miss their daddies — and occasionally from mamas missing them too. Because there may not be crying in baseball, but believe me, there is crying in football. A lot of crying.

But most of those tears are the good kind. The happy kind. The proud kind. The kind you blink away as your boys run to the fence to give Daddy a kiss during summer practice. The kind that sting your eyes with pride as you and your boys rush the field for a hug and kiss after the game. The kind you shed after your husband reads you a text sent from a player who just secured a D-1 scholarship. The kind that run down your cheeks and off your chin after a championship run that ends in success.

The kind that unexpectedly well up when you think about how much you love your football husband, your football family, and your football life – your hard, hectic, wild and way-harder-than-you-ever-thought-possible football life.

Spring Ball: Football and its Families Prepare for The Grind

It is May in Georgia. The days lean toward summer, growing warm and husky with the promise of rain. Clouds stack on the horizon and flit fast across fields, green and fresh and striped with the first mow of the season – along with the first paint. Spring Ball has arrived.

It’s a time of anticipation and adjustment – for a team and its coaches and their families, as well. The melanin and muscle and mercury are rising — the summer’s preparing to grind. And so are the coaches’ wives.

Spring ball is a time to stretch out those long-dormant football legs. To remember the rigor, to shift and rebalance the weight, to recondition the brain and the body for the upcoming football season.

As the coaches tweak their playbooks, the wives tweak their mindsets. As the depth charts take shape on their husband’s clipboards, the duty rosters get shifted at home. Laundry loads double with work clothes, plus practice gear. The cooking and dishes all rest upon her. Then there’s bath time and story time and bedtime and more.

The job of a coach’s wife is demanding. She one platoons their home life: scrambling and blocking and taking heat in the pocket; rushing and tackling and offering up pass protection where needed. Running offense AND defense is a fine balance. Maintaining that balance requires strength and focus, and passion and love – not just for her husband and family, but also for the game. Without passion and love of the game, resentment can take hold. Not everyone’s cut out for the job.

And the job of a coach is demanding. It brings long hours, low pay, and high turnover. The weight of responsibility brings bags to his eyes and weights to his shoulders. He juggles politics from parents, school systems and fans. He demands excellence from his players, and in return the fans demand excellence from him. Stress levels rise. Maintaining the balance requires strength and focus, and also passion and love – not just for the game, but for his wife and family. Without passion and love for his family, resentment can take hold. Not everyone’s cut out for the job.

Strength and Focus; Passion and Love. Without them, football will defeat you. When things get heavy (which they always do) the weight can get one-sided. It can topple you. You have to find balance. Strength and focus on one side, passion and love on the other. And then you have to maintain it.

Football families redistribute their balance in the spring. We put our bodies and our minds through the paces. We tweak our playbooks and our attitudes. As the mercury rises, our muscle memory takes over and we find ourselves ready.  Ready for the grind.

It is May in Georgia. The days lean toward summer, growing warm and husky with the promise of a football reign. Spring Ball is here.

We Have The Wills

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This week feels surreal. Saturday, our team won their state title game in the Georgia Dome. Saturday, all the hard work and hard knocks of the 2016 football season paid off. Saturday, our wildest dreams as a football family came true.  I knew that today I would write about it. But now, as I stare at my computer screen, I don’t think it’s possible. I don’t think  I can get all the sights, the smells, the sounds, the feels into a mere blog. No, let me rephrase — I KNOW I can’t get all the sights, the smells, the sounds, the feels into a mere blog. It’s impossible. But I will try my utmost because our players and coaches and wives and families gave our utmost all season long, and I want to at least attempt to pay tribute to their sacrifices and their accomplishments…

And so… Saturday. Saturday, Cane Nation descended upon the Georgia Dome. A swirling vortex of players, coaches, families, and fans. A perfect storm spawned in tradition, solidified by teamwork, shouldered by sacrifice and driven by character. And that perfect storm ended in victory. And not because the Cartersville Purple Hurricanes are bigger or stronger than any other team they faced – on the contrary. The other teams were almost always the bigger and stronger in every match up. But this team is disciplined. They are driven. And they are full of “The Wills” — the “Willfulness” to keep going despite opposition, the “Willpower” to make it happen, and most important of all, the “Willingness” to be coached – to adjust, to learn, to give, to change, to grow.

Our coaches and players own The Wills. We put up 58 points in a title game. We held our opponent to 7. We forced six turnovers – five fumbles and an interception. We scored seven touchdowns – one on a glorious scoop and score. We’ve been at the grind for twenty-four weeks solid without a break since July. We ended it all with a perfect season. And we’ve gone 30-0 in two perfect seasons. That’s what having The Wills can do.

And it’s not just the coaches and players who have them. The wives own them, too. We adjust, we learn, we give, we change, we grow. I could point out all the traditional sacrifices – like the long, lonesome hours, the empty spots at the dinner table, the single-parenthood, the struggles with resentment — the generally known, but not necessarily understood, hardships of being a football wife. But instead, I will show a not-uncommon, but far-lesser-known (and decidedly far-greater) sacrifice that football wives often make that truly displays their willpower, willfulness, and willingness to be part of the team. This season, our coaching staff gained three new babies – with a fourth due to arrive in the next couple of weeks. These wives single-handedly took on the tender weeks and months of their infants’ new lives while daddy was on the field or at the field house six out of seven days a week. I don’t know that anyone, anywhere can possibly fathom the mental and physical endurance such a feat requires. That, my friends, is what having The Wills can do.

Now I’m not saying it was easy on the new daddies either. Far from it. It tore at their hearts and gnawed on their consciences. What I am saying is that football is one tough task master.  If you don’t have what it takes to weather its adversities, it will chew you up and it will spit you out. It’s the nature of the game. It’s full of tackles, sacks, dog piles, and dirty calls. And I’m talking the politics of the game here, not just the game.  It comes with hard knocks.

Case in point: Six years ago, in November, my husband, my affectionately coined “tall mug of caramel coaching macchiato,” was fired from his football job. Fired after giving his utmost to his players, his fellow coaches, and his school. He and his friend and head coach had pulled a losing program out of the trenches and finished strong with four solid wins. The program was on the very cusp of a turnaround. And they were fired.

Being fired bruised him. It cut him deep inside. It left him questioning his calling.

But Mike refused to stay down. He refused to come out of the game. He girded up his soul with courage and gumption, learning and gleaning from three different programs in six different years. He fought his way out of the dog pile and back to the top.  He disciplined himself. He adjusted. He learned, he gave, he changed, he grew. He found The Wills. And, the football gods have blessed him accordingly.

Six years ago my husband and his friend were fired. This year, my husband and his friend  BOTH won their respective state title bids: one in Minnesota; one in Georgia.

Football is a tough task master. It damn near breaks you before it  grants your rewards. But if you have the willfulness to endure, the willpower to push harder, and the willingness to learn then you WILL win. It’s only a matter of time. It’s the nature of the game.

And so it goes with life.

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Three-Ring, Four-Quarter Circus

So we all know that popular phrase, not my circus, not my monkeys? Yeah, well, I can’t say that. As a mother of toddler twin boys, I have my own little Barnum and Bailey reality show right under my feet – literally right under my feet – every single day.  So step right up! (But watch your step, please.) Come on in! I’ll give you a grand tour of our crazy, snack-filled, action-packed circus under the glaring lights and the colorful crowds of our Friday nights.

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And by the way, tonight may bear witness to one of the most exciting, most daring, most challenging of all Friday nights. The Canes are on the road for Round Three of our bid for the State Title!

So, nope, our circus won’t happen out there on the football field. Our circus takes place up there in the stands. Up in one tiny, little corner of the stands. Where — if you zoom in tight — you’ll see the disheveled circus trainer as her two little, manic monkeys jump – no, rephrase — pound on her one and only final surviving nerve…

But before the show begins… a little backstory. The Cartersville Purple Hurricanes are travelling to Woodward Academy. It’ll be a tough match up – one that experts claim is worthy of a final match up, rather than the quarterfinal game that it actually is. Both teams have skills for days and Division 1 prospects coming out the wazoo.  Both programs have coaching staffs who know the science of  football, who have solid schemes, firm discipline, and good, old-fashioned love of the game and love for their boys.  This game’s going to be one for the history books, folks.

Which means this sideshow ringleader is already in the process of packing up Mike’s truck like a travelling circus on a long-distance tour.  I’ve got the Radio Flyer wagon loaded up in the bed already – there’s no telling how far we’ll have to navigate from visitor’s parking to stadium steps and walking in crowds with my boys – well, I’d rather swallow flames or lie on a bed of nails. It is a hazardous, torturous affair. They shuffle and shy away from each “Hello” or welcoming smile they receive. And, as twins, they get lots of them. They’re like my own little private set of circus freaks. Folks gather ‘round them and stare and point and wait for a sideshow. But the boys don’t oblige. No tricks, no performance, not even a wave. All they want to do is hide behind their mama’s legs and contort themselves in unlikely angles to avoid detection. So, I pile them in their little red wagon, and away we go, bags and blankets and snack packs galore.

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Now the snacks are the most important ingredient in our little circus.  My sideshow freaks need lots and lots of snacks to keep them in prime condition. Their diets are quite precise, and packed oh-so-carefully according dietary needs. And by needs, I mean cravings – primarily sweet tooth cravings, but we’ve got carbs covered, too. There are teddy grahams, and cereal bars, cookies and muffins, goldfish and cheerios, raisins and juice boxes — the only two semi-healthy items in the whole horde. The suckers on the other hand (oops, let me be clear, by suckers, I’m referring to the dum-dums… um, again, let me clarify — the round, candy-flavored confections on a stick, NOT my boys), but the suckers… the dozens and dozens and dozens of suckers I bring, those ensure that I see at least one of every four downs in a series. Because my boys LOVE suckers. And by suckers, this time I’m pretty sure I mean me…

Because no one but a sucker would willingly give two rowdy, sloppy, drooly, toddler boys an unlimited supply of syrup on a stick, knowing full well that her little twin acrobats keep their favorite climbing apparatus with them at all times – namely their MOTHER.  On any given Friday night, one can find them climbing up and over and under and (I’m fairly certain) through my body for the entire duration of a sixty minute football game.  And tonight – with both teams being spread teams, there’s gonna to be a heckuva a lot of passes thrown, and a heckuva a lot of first downs made, and a heckuva lot of stopped clocks, and a heckuva lot of chains moved, and a heckuva lot of kickoffs received, and a heckuva lot longer football game played than the traditional sixty minutes allotted. This sucker’s gonna go on for a good, long while. Einstein’s theory — it’s all relative. So relatively speaking, here, I’m the sucker.

Now every circus comes with music, usually involving some type of prancing, staccato-beat, calliope tune. But not this circus. This one plays Cartersville’s fight song after every touchdown, which is a spot-on rendition of “On Wisconsin,” and which I’m assuming somehow translates into “Purple Hurricanes, Purple Hurricanes something, something, something, something something … “  Maybe?   Feels like there would be a dropped syllable in there somewhere. I’m not quite sure… Anyway, that fight song plays often – seeing as how we’ve averaged forty points a game this year – and then, in between the fight song, Tate belts out his ubiquitous “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” complete with jazz hands. We are truly an eclectic show.

So we’ve got the sideshow freaks, contortionists, circus monkeys, acrobats — all of whom are the same principal characters in our diversely talented ensemble. But of course, there’s one key member I haven’t truly addressed yet.  The Ring Leader.

Every circus has one. At least, that’s what I’ve always observed.  But I must confess that this particular circus ring leader is not necessarily cut out for her job. She seems to have zero control of her monkeys, the staff appears to run over the top of her quite regularly, and I’m not sure, but I’m fairly certain that if you look closely, you’ll find traces of sucker stains on her clothes and in her hair. Which, I guess is better than the muffin that the day care found buried in in one of her little monkey’s heads this week. The director kindly extracted the said blueberry treat, but not before sending a picture and some thinly-veiled laughter in a private message. I am enclosing the picture as evidentiary proof that this ring leader is definitely not up to the challenge of such a daunting and daring occupation.

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Be that as it may… she is still an exuberant supporter of her crazy, careening circus and of her talented, ravishingly handsome coaching husband, as well as an enthusiastic and loud-mouthed Purple Hurricanes fan. Therefore, she’s readied her caravan and she’s geared up for her three-ring, four-quarter circus.

Oh, but she has one sweet feather in her big top hat, her best, bestie is riding shotgun tonight, offering moral support and monkey-training skills. She’s a pro. She teaches sophomores non stop daily. So there’s that.

So I’m the Ring Leader and these ARE my monkeys and this IS my circus. Step right up and come on in! For the greatest show on earth — the Georgia High School 4-A football quarterfinals — oh, and my little, three-ring sideshow.

 

The Physiological Effects of Football on a Coach’s Wife

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Football gives me chills. And chest tightness. And tachycardia. And tremors. And hypotension. And breathlessness. And Fatigue. But it’s all good. I promise.

Let me explain…

Yesterday, just after 1:00 PM, I kissed my husband goodbye and watched him head off to the football war room, a scenario we’ve repeated every Sunday afternoon since early August. He strolled purposely down our sidewalk, his bag full of notes on this week’s opposing team’s tendencies slung over his shoulder.As I watched him leave, my chest tightened with pride. It’s Week Two of Georgia High School playoffs. The competition is getting fiercer, so Mike and his fellow defensive coaches burned the midnight oil preparing their game plan.

It’s a mysterious process to me, the deconstruction of an offense. In my fiercely romantic brain, I imagine it’s an exposition closely akin to the annotation and explication of metaphysical poetry. I picture the guys huddled around their Hudl screens, marking up schemes with dexterity and determination, scrutinizing pistol formations and pondering triple options with the same respect and gritty fortitude that I scrutinize syntax and ponder paradox, searching for the key to decipher the cryptic code and whittle it down into chewable chunks.

I’m sure it’s a formidable feat, arduous and time-consuming; always open to interpretation; and painfully exquisite– if that’s your thing. And it is absolutely, positively my guy’s thing. For the past decade, I’ve watched him light up like a Hurricane scoreboard when he talks shop with fellow coaches. Football powwows with people in the know is one of his most intense pleasures.  And I love that he’s found his niche within this fine group of coaching fellows. Perhaps I’m biased, but I truly believe they may be the most amazingly gifted and gracious crew ever to be assembled in the history of high school football.

Watching them from the stands as they interact with their players on Friday nights, tremors of excitement run up and down my spine.  It starts with pregame. I love seeing the boys clustered around their position coaches, going through their drills. The bursts of whistle and muscle; the blur of footballs and footwork; the thud of shoulder pads and practice punts. Pregame gives me shivers.

And then there is the moment at the beginning of every game, just prior to kick off, when the boys and their coaches march evenly out across half the field and kneel. One-hundred-twenty-plus boys of one-hundred-fifty-plus pounds – they all take a knee and give the Lord a moment of silence and respect.

It leaves me breathless.

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Then the world speeds back up again. The crowds gather; the cheerleaders chant; the bands play; the lights hum; and the stadium pulses. But just before it all goes down, just before the band plays Amazing Grace and The Star-Spangled Banner, just before the team runs through the tunnel of swirling white smoke and takes the field, just before the scoreboard sounds off and the place kicker blasts off, Mike climbs the stadium steps on his way to the box. And he always stops off to deliver a kiss to me and our boys. Seeing him approach, his chocolate eyes smiling, his caramel skin glowing, his wide, warm shoulders swaying, my heart swells and my knees go weak. I am truly a blessed woman.

Yes, Friday nights give me goosebumps. Good old-fashioned, puckered-up chicken skin. And not because I’m lucky enough to get a pre-game kiss from a tall mug of coaching caramel macchiato. (Although that helps, too.) But because boy, can our boys play some ball. And man, can our men coach ‘em up. There is nothing like a good, crisp, spiral-sliced Friday night.

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And now we’ve been blessed with a second week in our playoff run. And I’m praying for another three after this. Another three-and-a-half weeks of single parenthood and lonely bedtimes. The boys and I have this routine down pat. It’s old hat. And we’re in it for the long haul.

Oh, but the playoffs have introduced one new formation in our family’s weekly playbook:  Chili Night Wednesday Night.

Every Wednesday of postseason play, the coaches’ wives make chili – pots and pots and pots of chili (along with every imaginable fixin) – which we then ladle up for the players in the field house after practice.

The football field house is a far cry from a five-star restaurant. It’s a dusty, moldy, and well-seasoned (pun intended) athletic facility (and even that sounds too fancy for what it actually is). But there, amidst the battered tables and scheme-riddled white boards, the buzzing fluorescent tubes and the lingering locker room funk, we wait on a team of amazing young men who have willingly harnessed themselves to the merciless gridiron grind – who sacrifice their bodies and their egos for the good of the team. Teenagers who are stronger and more dependable and more faithful than I ever would have been at their age. Young men who are winning – not just at football, but at life.

And one of the reasons these players are winning is the cadre of coaches in their corner.These men are their mentors, their overseers, their champions. They invest time, energy and love. These boys become their boys. And  because of the dedication of their coaches, these boys soon become the community’s boys, too. Everyone’s boys. The boys of fall. Because in Georgia, football is legendary.

So here’s hoping and praying for another four weeks of Sunday War Rooms, Chili Night Wednesday Nights, Friday Night Lights and everything in between. I’m ready for the run. My heart can take it. My body is addicted to the thrilling, physiological effects of really good football. And it’s all good.

fridaynighttate

 

 

 

 

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