So... are you guys tired of hearing me talk about football yet? Too bad! :)
We are still playing. Yes, this is without a doubt the longest sports seasons we've ever been involved with. The tryouts for this team were in April. The team started practicing in July. Early July. And here it is the week before Thanksgiving and we're still practicing 3 times a week. The biggest difference as the season goes on is that now the generators running the portable lights get cranked up even before practice starts! Yep... it's pretty serious!
And it's also pretty fun!
I could talk for hours about this year's football experience. The goods and the not-so-much and the lessons learned. It would be boring for everyone except Bob and my dad, so I will spare you most of those details. What I will share is that the takeaways from this year go well beyond the (significant) improvement in football skills we've seen in Spencer. And I will admit that this team has taught me a thing or too as well.
You might remember that I had a fear that Spencer, while easily one of the top players on every team he'd been on until this Paladins team, would struggle to keep up. This has played itself out... a bit. This is a D1 team. For anyone not familiar (and I know that's probably 98% of you out there), D1 is a step up (maybe two steps up...) from a recreational league. That's why we travel. The competition is better. The coaching s BETTER. The boys playing are more serious. The skill set is better. The whole thing is more... intense. And Spencer, while a good football player with excellent fundamentals, is not as good as the other kids on the team. They are bigger* and faster and have played together longer.
So Spence doesn't get much game time.
And that is hard... not gonna lie.
We went through a few weeks as it became obvious that Spencer's game time was going to be extremely limited, questioning the decision to put him on this team. The absolute last thing I wanted to do was to discourage him from wanting to play again. This was a struggle for Bob and I - but as it turns out, it wasn't so much a struggle for Spencer. He was having fun and learning every week. He was making friends and enjoying being on a team that was winning. It's fun to win.
As we approach the end of this season (still a few more weeks to go if we win on Saturday and get into the BIG Born to Compete State championship tournament) we've got a slightly new perspective. And it's, frankly, a good lesson for lots of things in life.
Spencer is like Rudy. And the quality of the starters on this team is raised when the bench is strong. Spencer has gotten what we wanted out of this team. Good coaching, quality instruction, and a very positive experience. And he is learning that his job is to help his team win any way he can. His job just doesn't happen to take place exclusively on Saturdays. His real work happens 3 nights a week under the lights on a quiet practice field without fans. His job doesn't come with glory. He will never be named "player of the week".
He's also learned that nothing in life is free. That things you want will not be handed to you. That if you want something, you need to work at it.
After many discussions about what he wants to do next year, the jury is still out. But there is one thing that's certain. He WILL play football again. He's having a blast and wants to keep going despite the sweltering summer practices and the frigid fall ones. He wants to keep going even though his contributions this year have been limited to the scout team. He wants to keep trying to win a starting position. He wants to keep being a part of the team. He wants to keep getting better because he knows that in the long run, that's what's important. He's got his eye on a spot on the middle school team... maybe high school. He's not dwelling on what he's NOT getting to do this year. He's focused on what he HAS gotten to do.
And that, folks, makes me one proud mama!
This weekend we're heading to play the Atlanta Vikings for the second time this season in the league championship game. The Vikings handed the Paladins their only loss of the season so this game is payback time. The boys are traveling in the Pinecrest Paladins bus (how cool is that) while the parents tailgate from the burbs to downtown Atlanta in a line of decorated cars. We will cheer our hearts out and win or lose consider this to be an exceptional season. If the team wins, we will automatically get a spot in the Born to Compete championship tournament where we would play other league champions. If we lose, we may still get an at large bid to that tourney. This team is that good...
So yes, this will go down as a 6 month football season for us! (And also as one of our better parenting decisions.) Go Paladins!!
*The fact that there are 8-10 kids on the team that are bigger than Spencer is somewhat comical given he just had his 11 year old check up and is above the 95% in height and weight. It's just another reminder that these boys are the best in the area and will undoubtedly be playing football for years to come.