I finally understand how people become psycho sports parents. Because honestly, if my seven-year-old son, Eli’s, football coach doesn’t start playing him more, I’m going to run into the field at the next game, hands poised in throat clenching position, tackle the man, and strangle him within an inch of his life.
Here’s the thing: Eli loves football. He’s not the greatest player. But he’s got talent. And with a little experience and training, he could be really good at this game.
Last season was his first foray into the flag football phenomenon. His team ended the season 0 for 14. But that didn’t discourage him one iota. I hate to admit it, but it bummed me out enormously. I mean this league is totally unfair. Half the kids have been playing football since they were toddling around in diapers, and they’re all grouped together on the winning teams. Then there are the “new” players. These are the kids who’ve already past their primes. They’re six or seven before they pig up a pigskin ellipsoid. At that point, it’s simply too late for them. Throwaway kids we like to call them: like my Eli.
These “new” players get grouped together with the other newbies. They end up on losing teams, with inexperienced coaches who “just want to have fun,” and think that everyone deserves an equal chance to play, regardless of their abilities. That’s a sweet philosophy: until your kid’s the best player on the team and still gets side-lined so that the coach’s ADD daughter can race around the field chasing butterflies when she’s supposed to be snatching opponents’ flags.
Last season was frustrating to be sure. But this season is downright maddening. He’s on another newbie team, with a first time coach and a bunch of players who are seriously lacking in aptitude. Based on the first few practices and games, I’m predicting another perfect streak — of losses that is.
But here’s the issue: This new coach knows half the kids on the team from outside of football and he favors them over the kids he doesn’t know, like Eli. So, not only is Eli on a losing team with a clueless coach, but he’s also not getting a chance to play. (This sounds like an old Henny Youngman routine. “The food was awful, and there wasn’t enough of it.”)
The truth is, I’m upset about this. I want Eli to learn how to play football better. If he sits out half the game, he’s not gonna do that. I mean even if Eli was the worst player on the team, which he certainly is not, when the team is down 42 to nothing, the coach might consider giving Eli a chance to get in there and catch a few passes. Come on, if you’re gonna coach a bad team that’s destined to lose, at least let my kid play for more than a truncated flag football quarter.
I want to complain. I want to speak to the coach on Eli’s behalf. After all, he’s only 7, and he thinks this is fun. This is not fun! Someone needs to advocate for Eli. Just because he’s happy does not mean it’s okay to get benched every other play.
But I don’t want to come off as one of those pushy, competitive parents who thinks the world revolves around their kid. But maybe I am one of those pushy, competitive parents. Well, if I am, then I guess there’s no shame in accepting myself as I am and pushing ahead competitively until my kid gets his fair share of field time.
Hmmm…that wasn’t so hard. Self acceptance is a beautiful thing.