I proudly belong to a special group of women. I am a football mom.
I love football. I’ve loved it probably since I was in the womb, going to UGA games. I grew up attending those games every Saturday for as long as I can remember. My entire extended family loves football. My husband loves football. We are Football. People.
When I gave birth to a son 16 years ago, it was inevitable that he would also love football. And he does. He loves it so much that he will literally watch ANY team in ANY game. Shaking my head, I’ve witnessed it many times but realize that he gets it honestly. It’s in his blood.
He’s also a big kid. He comes from big men who also played football. When he was younger and played rec football, he had to have an “X” taped on his helmet to signify that he was over a certain weight and could not carry the football. Yes, you read that right. That’s how our rec dept handled the little kid/big kid thing. I understood that the little kids didn’t want to get hurt, and I didn’t want my big kid to hurt them. But it also felt wrong and felt like my kid had a scarlet A on his helmet, and felt like an offshoot of the odd participation trophy phenomena. I wanted to complain but he didn’t want me to, and it would have only made me look like I didn’t care about the smaller kids. And honestly, if my kid had been little, I’m sure I would have wholeheartedly supported the rule.
We tried to reassure him that someday, his size would pay off in football. “Someday, son, you will play high school ball, and you will be rewarded handsomely for your big-ness.” Now, as a starting offensive lineman, he is finally reaping the rewards of the big, strong body that God gave him.
Being on a football team has given him a tight-knit group of friends and supportive teammates. It has given him discipline. It has given him confidence, toughness, and physical and mental strength. It has given him respect for authority. It has given him the opportunity to be around kids with different backgrounds than his. It has given him a work ethic.
It’s also given him a broken hand, constant soreness, ugly bruises everywhere, struggles with asthma, back strains, cuts and scrapes that keep getting re-cut and re-scraped…the list goes on and on. The news reports continuous research about concussions and long-term brain injuries for football players. It’s hard to see and hear. It makes me worry over our decision to allow him to play football.
As a football mom, I worry every day, every practice, every game. I’m always glad to get his text that he’s on his way home. Other non-football moms say, “don’t you worry about him playing football?” Or “I won’t let my son play football.” Absolutely, I worry. The night before every game, I pray for him, for his teammates, and his opponents to stay safe from injury and harm.
I wonder what the future of football is. That’s not for me to decide. But in defense of football and football moms (and dads), hashtag it’s complicated.
I love to watch him play a game that he loves. He’s good at it. He’s physically suited for it. It’s good for him.
I love to watch the game. I’m proud of him and his team.
So please know that I know that it’s dangerous. It’s also building great men. It’s the agony of defeat. It’s the thrill of victory. It’s yin and yang. It’s light and dark. It’s complicated.
For now, I’ll keep on keeping on with our Friday Night Lights and being grateful for the many gifts football has given my son. And I’m eternally grateful for being a football mom.