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Middle School Football: Reflections On A Banner Season - On And Off the Field

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A month has now passed since my son's last 7th grade football game, which has given me time to reflect back on his 9-game,  7-win, 2-loss season with a new-found sense of pride, not just for him, but for my own personal growth.  Not only did he really flourish on and off the field, but I find myself growing as well.7th grade football player being tackled

My son had a banner season on the gridiron. His hard work and pre-season practice paid off, and I am proud to say he excelled in both the positions he played (defensive end and running back; that's him at right)(#30). His coaches appreciated how he constantly motivated his teammates. So, as far as football on the field, he scored a  touchdown!

I was equally impressed with how well he "scored" off the field, which earned him my most valuable player award. I learned how hard it is to be a student-athlete. Practice started at 6:15 a.m. and the school day didn't end until 3:30 p.m., making for a very long day for a 7th grader.  

Yet, he kept up with his studies the entire season, told his teachers if he had to leave early for a game so he could get his homework ahead of time, and turned in every assignment on time. Amazing!

Lessons learned 

Here are just some of the valuable life lessons he learned over the course of the season: 

  1. First to shower gets the hot water
  2. Pre-tie your tie for game day wear (Thank you, You Tube)
  3. There are 52 scents of Axe body wash and deodorant. Please just choose just one! 
  4. A punctured deodorant spray works like a hand grenade in the shower 
  5. On away games, don't sit on the bus near the kid who likes onions on his sub sandwich
  6. Winning is more fun than turning in a great individual effort, but losing the game
  7. When your mom packs the purple drink for lunch (see below), make sure you drink it

Big Baby

After about the second week of the season, I realized I was back in a familiar routine, one I had not experienced in about 11 ½ years! My 7th grade son and I were back into a routine of mom and baby. I believe my boy was growing at the same incredible rate as he was as a toddler!

Talk about the see-food diet. Here's what his meal and snack schedule looked like:

  • Pre-breakfast before practice; 
  • Breakfast with team after practice; 
  • Lunch;
  • After-school snack (in the car on the way home after school)
  • Pre-supper snack;
  • Supper; and
  • Snack before going to bed. 

It is amazing how much this schedule resembled his every three-hour feeding schedule as an infant, although with one big difference: he was consuming a lot more calories. I counted his daily intake at about 10,000; more than I eat - or at least should eat - over the course of five full days! 

The fact that he was getting up at 5:30 a.m. every morning was nothing new; he was an early riser as an infant, too. Luckily, he still has a quiet, but pleasant disposition in the morning. (Do not get my started on his older sister!)

Bedtime was 8:30 p.m. No exceptions.  Yet he never complained, not even once. In fact, he seemed grateful to hit the hay. (who wouldn't be tired after such a long day?)  Not all that much different from when he was a baby, when he begged to go to sleep when the sun went down.  

In keeping with this big baby theme, I also encouraged him to drink a bottle of Pedialyte every day to stay well hydrated during the hot days of August and September. Grape was his favorite flavor as a toddler. Guess what? It still is! So as not to embarrass him, I packed it in his lunch in a water bottle. It got so popular, I packed extras for friends. I will not divulge my secret formula either!

Also, like my growing baby boy, my big kid grew two full clothing sizes over the course of the season. By early November, the brand new khaki pants and button-down shirt I was ironing the first week of September looked like something Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer would wear; the toes were popping out of the shoes and shirtsleeves were only mid-arm length! Just like an infant, one day they fit, and the next day they do not. Every picture-taking occasion, I was forever buying new clothes that fit.  (So much for the original plan of getting them to last long enough so he could wear them to a family wedding at the end of November)

MAGs (Moms and Girlfriends)

A new twist on the big baby boy theme - both for him and for me - was the addition of GIRLS at the football games! For the first home football game, the stands were full of giggly girls racing up and down the bleachers. Some were sitting in football player sections and trying on helmets and shoulder pads. A wise middle school teacher supervising the student body quickly put a stop to those shenanigans.

All the boys were a bit nervous knowing that GIRLS (not moms) come to football games. They had never thought about that aspect of the game. So, the away games were easier on the team for a few weeks. About mid-season, at a home game, I was cheering for my son during an exceptional play. Wait. Was there an echo???? Who else would be yelling at the same time as me? A pretty girl with a ponytail and school colored ribbons who was just as animated as I was. Time out! Mom shaken up on the play! As my son trotted off the field with the rest of the defense, I saw him smile and look up into the stands. Through his mouth guard and braces, I knew that smile was for me! Or was it???? Well, at least she was cute and blonde. I cheer for my daughter's boyfriend at high school varsity games, but I have noticed I yell at a decibel level slightly lower than his mom. My friend Margaret Stafford did not go over the etiquette involved in this part of the game. The moral of the story: don't even try to out-cheer mom. Ever. 

Laundry fairy

At the end of the season, Coach asked that all jerseys and practice shirts be returned freshly-washed to the locker room. What? For 10 weeks those shirts had been in my kid's football bag. Despite my best efforts, the brown, mildewed piece of cloth he tossed my way for washing, eventually turned a dull white. The golden jersey? Well, they just needed to replace it.  The lesson I learned was that laundry is a HUGE part of being a middle school football mom.  Game day clothes, pressed and ready to go, as well as a white shirt to wear after all victories at school the following day. Uniforms and practice shirts? Well, now I know. Middle school football is not quite the same as NFL with laundry service.

In the middle

With the first season of middle school football season behind us, and another great fall on the gridiron a long way off, there is no doubt that I am still a major fan of football and boys. Middle school says it all. It is where we are: in the middle. My son is no longer a baby, but not yet on varsity. We are both still learning and still growing - in more ways than one!