Monday, October 6, 2008

Kids and Sports

As many of you know I am the head coach of my son's football team which is to say that I am an expert at herding cats. You don't so much coach 8 year olds in football as you lead them toward the idea of playing football. We had a great game this weekend and it brought a lot of old feelings about my youth to me.

I can recall the vague rememberance of playing football as a kid for Mr. Richardson. We played in the Pop Warner system in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania. We practiced and played at my Grade school, Elanor Roosevelt, where my recollection was that we were pretty good. I played fullback and also played on the defensive line. I remember that I had to lose weight just to play and recall having to eat nothing but apples and Slim Jims for about two weeks in my personal attempt to control the battle of the bulge. I am almost certain that my parents didn't know I was eating so well. I also realize now that I may have a distorted view of my time spent playing for the mighty Richardson's Rams. I had a talk with my dad recently and he asked me how it was going with coaching and everything. I said it was hard to get a bunch of 8 year olds to do anything let alone something as complex as a double wing offense and a gap mirror defense. he sat across from me, his face tanned from retirement but grooved from years of battling me as a son and he smiled a knowing smile. I asked what was so funny and he said that I probably don't remember how it was when I was in little kid football. I said that I thought I did and went on to say that I thought kids probably had more interest then. We seemed from my memory to be committed to winning and at the very least could pay attention to our coaches for a whole practice. I went on a little rant then and talked about how some of our kids complain about getting kicked in the shin or banged on th elbow. They seem a little "light" I say. His grin widens and his eyes look over the top of his glasses now as he pulls his chin back and offers up that he isn't sure about whether kids are less tough now or not but that he is pretty sure I have a distorted memory of my time in the "Big Leagues". I was taken back a bit, sure that my recall was nearly perfect and asked him what he meant. He said, I am not sure that you remember but the most important thing to you were your socks. You perseverated over whether mom had washed the socks for practices and game days. You had to have the right socks and they had to be pulled up to your knees at all times. You would constantly be fidgeting with them on the sidelines and in the huddle. people would make comments about your fascination with your socks. It was so bad that as you ran you would look at your socks to make sure they looked OK. I am not certain but I would tend to bet Mr. Richardson probably went home at the end of practices and said to his wife, ' oh my God, there is this big bull of a kid who just can't get his stuff together 'cuz he is always looking at his socks.' I guess you all have your crosses to bear as coaches but I think it will always be the same. Kids are kids. You're not going to change that... so you better learn to embrace it or you will drive yourself nuts."

My dad is sage. I have come to try and embrace the thing that makes kids great. They don't carry with them the weight of the world. They don't dwell on the past. They live for the now. While that doesn't always work out for us adults and our busy deadline oriented lives, we could take a page from the book of kid wisdom and relearn from it. Slow down a bit and take time to just be kid-like. Remember that joy comes from doing that which you love seldom does that include the drudgery of work or chores. Remember how we would do just enough to get by before running off to "play". I can remember days of my youth where we were gone from sun up to sun down playing all over the neighborhood. In all that time I can't ever remember having a care in the world. My imagination was as big as the sky and my world seemed limitless. Of course it was all a ruse but the sense that I got from my kid's vision of the world is what mattered.

I admonish each of you to try and rediscover what it is to be a kid. Coach or hang out with some if you are having a hard time. If you have kids, watch them and see how their world is limitless and without boundary.