Nothing says fall more than six sweaty, muddy, pre-pubescent boys—who clearly lack deodorant—climbing into your minivan for the carpool ride home from football practice.
If you buy Febreeze car vent clips by the dozen, you might be a football mom.
If you own more water jugs than glasses, you might be a football mom.
If you own a hat or shirt or necklace or all of the above with your kid’s name and jersey number (outlined in bling), you might be a football mom.
If you can cut 50 oranges into quarters quicker than the Food Network’s Top Chef, you might be a football mom.
I’m pretty sure I became a football mom when I was six months pregnant with our twin boys. My husband and I would watch in awe as arms, elbows, knees, and the occasional butt rippled through my belly.
By age two, the twins had fully taught themselves how to tackle, throw, and run. Unofficial football games happened almost daily in our backyard (and living room, kitchen, the boys’ cribs, everywhere). The looks of joy on their faces as they ran with the football and giggled as their pudgy legs tumbled to the ground together are forever etched in my mommy memory.
Fast-forward ten years… Today, the twins are almost 12, playing tackle football and even training with specialty coaches, hoping to nab positions on their middle school football team.
Youth football, especially in Texas, is intense, y’all. Kids hit that turf playing flag football as young as four and tackle as young as five or six.
The role of football mom is also intense and not for the weak at heart.
First, there’s the worry over injuries. Time and time again, we read about concussions. I mean, that is our child’s brain out there on the field we’re talking about. Football remains the number one sport for youth concussions, followed by ice hockey, girls soccer, and lacrosse. Also, being a football mom—or any sports mom, for that matter—requires a good deal of your time. From being asked to volunteer as the team mom to cutting half-time oranges for the team to the simpler but mundane task of being a taxi to and from multiple practices a week, it can be a lot.
But here’s the deal: Outweighing that load of worry and work comes complete, heart-fulfilling awesomeness. I mean, really, is there anything cuter than a little boy in crisp white football pads? The way they have to tilt their heads back to see out of their helmets when little, the way the eye paint makes them look like future Tom Bradys, the way they stand hand-on-hip along the 50-yard line, waiting for their chance to run onto that field.
As a football mom, you watch your child learn a new type of discipline and respond to someone else’s whistle. (And sometimes you wish you could borrow that whistle for home. Tweet! “Brush your teeth! Now!”)
As a football mom, you watch your sons learn about teamwork and form a camaraderie with their peers (aka: their football family).
As a football mom, you encourage a lifestyle that includes physical fitness and healthy eating. (Lots of eating!)
As a football mom, you teach the importance of priorities, starting with academics followed by the reward of playing ball. (Most youth teams check report cards.)
Then, there’s this: That single moment you watch your son or daughter make his/her first tackle or pull that yellow flag and hold it up in the air with such authority and pride. When his/her smiling eyes meet yours from across that football field, you will be football mom hooked.
Think you might be ready to suit up?
Here are a few plays from my Football Mom Playbook:
1. Invest in a good helmet. Perhaps I have fallen victim to fear or darn good marketing, but the peace of mind of knowing I am doing everything possible to protect my sons from a damaging head injury is worth the $200+ price tag of a good helmet. As our sons moved into their second year playing tackle and into positions where we knew they’d see some serious hitting, we chose to not use the helmet provided to us by our sons’ football team and instead purchased a helmet claiming to provide some of the best protection against concussions. Three helmets that continually rate high are the Riddell Speed, Schutt Ion4D, and Xenith.
2. Study and become familiar with the different football leagues available to you in your city. We started our boys at the YMCA with flag football. I loved introducing our sons to the game of football and basics of running plays, blocking, and defense before including hitting and tackling with pads. In a league such as the YMCA, all kids get equal playing time and try a variety of positions. As the twins grew a little older and more seriously into football, they also grew taller and thicker. Some leagues, like our YMCA, have weight limits. We knew this would limit our boys’ chances to play certain positions or carry the ball. We also began to feel our boys would benefit from playing in a league with a more realistic sampling of the competition they would one day face in middle school. So when they were seven, we enrolled the twins in TYFA (Texas Youth Football and Cheer Association). In TYFA, positions are earned and sometimes lost, there is no weight limit or restriction on who can carry the ball, and teams typically practice more than once a week. A few other football leagues in the greater San Antonio area include Pop Warner, i9Sport, Bulverde Youth Football, Texas Select Youth Football League, and NAJIFF.
3. Consider the benefits of specialty coaches. Gone are the days when simply playing catch in the front yard with your buddies can land you a spot on your high school football team. Today, many middle schools even have A, B, and “Go” football teams, with some 200+ kids jockeying for spots! With hopes of rising above the competition and improving fundamentals, many kids seek out specialty coaches. Crazy? I thought so at first. I mean, really, these kids are, well, kids! However, as our boys’ passion for football grew, so did the competition on the field around them. Our little guys with big dreams began working with a strength and conditioning coach who helped them develop skills like explosiveness, speed, and agility. More recently, our 11-year-old who plays quarterback began training with a quarterback coach. Another fast-growing addition to contact-sport-playing athletes is Pilates, because it develops core strength and increased flexibility, which are key to preventing injury.
4. Don’t rule out Madden 2015. If you have a little football player or future football player, Madden 2015, a popular football video game, doubles as a teaching tool! I have always been that “mean,” anti-gaming mom. Fortunately for us, our boys never really got too into it—that is, until they discovered Madden NFL on xbox. Have you seen this video game? The players look real; the kids pick actual NFL teams and players; and—my favorite part—there’s even an animated sports reporter! This may sound off-the-wall, but by playing Madden NFL, the twins have learned a lot about how the game of football works. Kids actually get to pick and run offensive and defensive plays, strategize (such as whether to kick a field goal or go for the fourth down), and learn game rules and subsequent penalties.
5. Model appropriate and positive sideline etiquette. I get it. It’s not always easy to remain in your seat at a sporting event. Perhaps there was a bad call involving your son or daughter. Or, maybe your son missed two consecutive passes when you’ve seen him make that catch over a hundred times in your backyard. However, as parents, we must try harder to model appropriate and positive sideline etiquette. This probably includes “coaching from the sidelines.” As the daughter of a high school football coach and former athlete, I may have once or twice tried to get my sons’ attention on the sideline, motioning with my best charade-hands to “get low” or “hustle.” Many coaches don’t appreciate this. Even more, your kid’s coach does not want a parent yelling at the referee—or worse, the kids. The Mama Bear emotions a game can stir in us are real. As a football mom, when your son or daughter is that quarterback and all eyes are on him/her as he/she drops back to throw, your stomach turns and you hold your breath. I tend to move in my seat—a lot. I pray. When he/she does great, you feel such excitement! But when a play goes bad, what do you do? How we respond as parents when our children fail, is more important than how we respond when they win. It is easy and natural to want to offer a critique out of love. I have done that—too soon. As a football mom, I have learned that my sons do not want to immediately talk about mistakes they have made. I’m not saying you can’t talk to them at some point about areas in which they can improve. However, seeing the look of defeat on my children’s faces after I spoke with criticism, even though I meant well, has taught me that kids of all ages deserve time to process a game, reveling first in what they did well. They deserve to bathe in the glory among the defeat, knowing you, their mom in shining football mom armor, is always their number one fan, win or lose.
To be a football mom—or any sports mom in today’s world—is a journey unique unto itself. You carefully tip-toe your way into a world filled with stinky uniforms, numerous practices, battles won and battles lost, occasional injuries, friendships, and hopefully, fun. You find that over time it becomes easier to understand. In the end, the football mom learns to love the game and bond with her child over it. My greatest advice would be to enjoy it (and capture it on video and in photos as often as you can) because, like so many of the roles we assume in our lifetime, the role of football mom, too, goes fast.
I absolutely love this article and your passion as a fantastic Mom and writer!
Great post Erin! I pray a lot too! I don’t want him to get hurt! Our son plays in high school now! I wasn’t prepared for how fun, exciting and scary it is to watch your son. He is having the time of his life and making so many great memories. Be prepared to schedule your summer vacation around conditioning camps. Training is almost 365 days a year!
Go Antonian Apaches!
We may have to come see him play a game, Laura! Thank you! Keep us posted on his success – love reading them!
Wow, thanks, Nicole!
Yes, yes, and yes! I am a football mom. My boys started at the YMCA in Midland Texas in flag. Once we moved to San Antonio my boys started playing for the NAJIFF Jr Brennan Bears. They sure do love football but the long season with endless practices and games can take a toll on me. I try to be an emotional tank filler with my boys pointing out their strong points and leave the coaching for their coaches. Now even my daughter wants to play football, I suppose with three brothers that was bound to happen but I’m not sure this football mom is ready for that! Thanks for the great post!
Our daughter too – younger than the twins can throw a mean spiral! lol! It’s great to grow up with brothers!! Good luck to your players – may they have a fun and safe year!
I’m a TYFA mom and totally agree with all of the above. I couldn’t just watch from the stands like a normal mom. I had to sign up for team mom. It’s the best seat in the house. We don’t play your team this season, but have before. Good luck to your boys!
Thanks, Taschia! TYFA has some tough competition, doesn’t it?! Love that you took on the team mom position – it means to much to these kids! It’s a lot of work though – hope you have help! Good luck on your season!
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