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All eyes on me

Good Sunday morning to a buddy :)

If you've been following my random thoughts for sometime now, you can probably sense things happening in my life. Like clouds that manifest in the sky followed by hints of the wet desert, you know it's going to rain.

More times than not, it's sideline check ins on how I'm doing because of something that I've shared or conveyed in an abstract thought that provokes curiosity or concern. In the absence of family, sharing my perspective in these weekly grateful messages has created my own support system in life. I've become so routine with getting lost in my own head that I don't even know what's really going on until I've had a couple weeks of "whatever it may be" turns into oh yeah?! there it is. lol! I know. Lame. :)

Have you ever walked into someone's house and smelled something amazing? First thought is that there's like some home cooked meal getting down somewhere around the corner?

You know?!

But when you finally round that corner, there's nothing. You're like, what's that smell? The person responds, oh that, that's just some food I made yesterday that I heated up in the microwave.... ah, ok.. there it is. Confusing smell in the air - solved.

I do have a point here. :)

Without context there's nothing but confusion. It wasn't until about 4am this morning did it dawn on me that I've given no context to what's going on.

Not saying that stuff isn't going on.. well, correction, in my life there's always something going on. In my constant quest to be uncomfortable I am kicking over a big rock that's not fully turned over yet.. Baby steps. :)

But I digress.

I feel bad about my tardiness for such a share. Its commitment might as well be another full time job that requires absolute focus and care.

I've written a lot about the boys, specifically Avin's football triumphs.

March 9, 2018 | effort... avin

Dec 7, 2018 | #77 is a champion

Sept 24, 2021 | On the road again

Oct 2, 2021 | #9 is a captain

Oct 31, 2021 | The last supper

But, not a peep about Tristan.

High school practices football all year, but only plays through the Fall, ending just before the holidays pick up. Middle school football starts in the winter time, beginning of January through early Spring.

This year Tristan is in 6th grade and had the opportunity to try out for middle school tackle football. It was nice to see his effort amongst the pool of students. For the first time it was a real tryout. It's going to sound weird... but, we're happy he didn't make it.

He's never played football... and that would have been a harder way to learn the game.

An old friend passed by and said hey, I run a flag football league.. you should give it a look.

Tristan has a neighbor buddy, Dylan, who we've known for 8 years now and also never played a football. It made the enrollment less uncomfortable for both families.

And so we did. :)

Here they stand side by side playing for the 49ers this January. :) Tristan on the Left, Dylan on the Right

Comparing the flag football culture to the high school level... boy! talk about Joy! talk about real fun! It was a lot less stressful watching practices and games. As much as winning is a good thing, even when a loss happens, it's still fun. On days where there was no official practice we would all find ourselves playing catch and running drills in our neighborhood park. The boys had a lot of fun during their 7 week season, so much so, that they were ready for the summer season. :) Insert vulnerability. While the 49ers season unfolded there were quiet takeaways from games and practices. These takeaways ultimately sparked an interest... while watching practice I leaned over and told Dylan's dad, Dustin:

"hey...I'm thinking about coaching next season... what do you think?"...
"I'm in if you're in".
Solid!! :)

I was already running two businesses full time, what's another full time commitment I thought! hahahah! There's excitement in doing something you've never done before.. and for me, this was one of them. My biggest issues with team sports as a kid was largely how coaches operated. The culture that followed was something that I struggled getting behind. In high school I quit football because of this reason. Even though I was called "quitter" for a full year, I didn't care... it was a joke of a program. Even at 16 years old it was hard for me to back something I didn't respect.. now at 40... it's even harder because it's not all about me like it was then, I have a family. To this day I still grossly struggle with the high school football culture. Now with a 17 year old son who is a varsity football player, I have to manage that frustration. Playing sports also reminded me of my life before self-employment when I had a W2 paying day job. I had bosses or business owners who didn't see culture or leadership the way I did. Not that I needed to be in charge. No, not at all. There's more to business than making money. There's more to playing sports than just winning. The best thing for me was to work late nights endlessly to someday hopefully become my own boss. I took that same heartfelt idea and passion and looked inward again, this time through the opportunity to help younger people, being a coach. Man! I was emotionally all in! :) Having the support of my bride, Chas, along with a wingman coach, Dustin, to chart the unknown together made this exciting. Our conversations evolved over time into ideas of what, how and such. There were discussions of coaching with another parent whose daughter also played on the 49ers. Our collective coaching spirit also gave him comfort in also stepping into coaching. While the boys practiced we settled on a team. The New Orleans Saints.

side note: this flag football league is sponsored by the NFL. which means that teams can be whatever professional team they want. To be the Saints came from Dustin. He knew that all of Chas's family comes from Louisiana and his Dad has an affinity for Louisiana State University Basketball. So it begins. :)

Both Tristan and Dylan were very excited. We also told them that there are a lot more expectations on you two as players - especially since your Dad's are coaches. You cannot be captains but are expected to act and operate like captains. Both of them respected that and were also all in. :) There was about a four week quiet time before the new season would start. With this down time we practiced, practicing. We had never coached before, but understood people. We knew we could not control the talent pool of our team or the teams we would compete against. The one thing we could control was our routine, presentation, and attitude. We wanted to create an experience that would make practice fun!

A: actual field layout with sidelines B: agility ladder C: a rush pass drill

D: QB net Tristan and Avin test-drive it :)

As our pre-season practices started, Tristan said I'd like to try quarterback.. I said, man! that's a huge step up from playing center... why do you say that? I don't know, I like the idea of it and think I'd be good at it. I mean if there's a good QB on our team, I'll keep playing center. I told him that to QB is a glorious job, everyone wants to be QB.. but not everyone can be a QB. Its much harder than many think. He understood the difficulty and while at our practices we would practice QB'ing. To my parental surprise, he had a decent arm... so we kept at it because he kept at it. side note: this flag team is a 5 vs 5. although center hikes the ball, once hiked, the center, like everyone else but the QB, is a receiver. everyone gets some action in the game, so it's really cool. :) side note, side note: As practice evolved, we now have a large 10' Saints flag and Dustin brings out his shade tent with a table for the boys drinks and portable speaker. It's so organized that a neighbor who sits on the HOA board received a complaint from an old crotchety neighbor, on the other side of the park, saying that "we're hosting organized football games with tickets, concession stands, and fans every week" HAHAHAH! hell yes! Although that is NOT happening, we have that kind of preparation in our presentation. It makes a big difference in how we can work and have fun as a team. After a month's worth of preparation we finally got our roster. There were eight new people we had never met before. Insert excitement and anxiety! hahah :)

Presentation is a big deal to me... especially when I'm in work mode. I had Saints shirts made for Chas and I. It has the name Cerini and #75.

My late bonus dad, Chas's step dad, John Cerini passed away from a sudden heart attack in 2020. He also played football in high school, #75. The man had a profound impact on our family.

Chas's mom, Dale, passed away in January of 2020 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. John would suddenly pass away due to a heart attack in December of 2020... not even one year between the two.. :( Chills... Dale loved angels, in her passing, in her honor, I said heaven has a new angel. To our shock when "poppa-John" passed, it only made sense to honor him saying that heaven has a new Saint. more chills... Not until this moment, right now as I type, am I connecting the dots of our John Cerini, #75, and our Saints team. Damn the fortuitous universe sending messages years ahead of time! John would have loved to hear about football... Sadly, it was in the time of Covid and Avin didn't play football that year. The following year, 2021, Avin's number is now #75 in high school. There are no jersey numbers in NFL flag... so in honor of our bonus dad is why my shirt says what it says. :) Sorry! sad shit I know... but, context and why is very important. It's like having an angel on my shoulders while we coach. Means a lot! Okay! Damn!! I continue! :) :) To our fortune, we had a well balanced talent pool of kids and super cool parents. We coordinated pizza a the park for our second practice. We wanted to get to know everyone better and everyone to get to know us better. It was really cool! It didn't take very long before all the boys started clicking together.

We have two Landen's this season.... One day this new kid shows up. Dustin and I really thought it was a new kid. Landen went from very dark, super dark hair to bleach white! ... a little "Slim Shady!"... the boy can talk too! hahhah! so it was the perfect nickname. From that moment, the whole team addresses him as "Slim"... I feel like a tool yelling across the field at him during a game "SLIM!!" hahaha. He's good for it. :)

This little boy, literally, little boy! is in second grade. He is Dylan's younger brother, Chase. The boy has SPEED! and when trying to make your QB learn how to move when being blitzed by people, this little boy is all about it. The part that I like about the culture we've created is that ALLLL the boys on the team embrace him as their own. They give feedback, guidance, and high fives. It's really cool to watch. :)

Our weekly ritual is Wednesdays and Fridays from 530-7pm. Dustin, Dylan, Tristan and I are there from about 4ish - 730 on these days. Games are held at the same place every Saturday. To add to that, Avin also plays in this league at a totally different location. His practices are Monday and Thursday.... from 530-7pm as well. I think I'm having dinner, if at all, around 8 at night. There is no football on Tuesday and Sundays only... oofta! hell of a time commitment! and here I am, talking about football on my Sunday! lol!

So far this season we've played 5 games. These games have been nothing but challenging to our little team... we're still striving for a win.... BUT! we are making progress!! getting better with each game. Damnit Slim!!!! Last week, Slim makes the comment, "god forbid something happen to Will... what will we do"... I'm not sure Slim! but let's focus on right now, shall we? (Will is our QB). "I know, but what would we do"... insert lots of conversation from a small child. It was a funny good time. Our game last Saturday was very competitive - incredibly competitive. We lost by 2 points... we were playing against a team that makes their own rules when they shouldn't. At any rate, a bad play happened with no take back - even after an eruption... that play put points on the board which tipped the scales for a loss. Aside from the stresses, it was a good game. It was Will's best QB game! and we were all looking forward to next weeks game against the Rams. Damnit Slim! :) Monday night I get a text from Will's Dad...

At a football camp at Avin's high school, Will fell in a fluke accident and gave himself a hairline fracture in his throwing wrist. :( Knowing this was like having a key man in a business suddenly quit. Damnit Slim! hahah! Wednesday's practice, Will shows up out of the car with a huge ass smile on his face greeting the team...

No surprise, Slim was all about it! NNNOOOOOO!!!! "I told you coach!" we played back saying he was the one that sent that to the universe. Will and the team responded well to the situation, but all were really bummed. The night I found out about Will, I of course told Dustin, Dylan, and Tristan... Years ago I made a bet with Tristan saying that if did 200 pushups in a row that I would pay him $100....

In the coming days he took a little bit of time and broke down how he could pull off 200 pushups. He calculated that if he did 10 pushups then took a 3-5 minute break, he could pull off all 200 in about an hour... Then.. in order to prove this level of effort... the little shit set up his tablet in his room, positioned it in a way that he could "literally" record every pushup.. When Tristan heard about Will's injury he felt really! bad for Will. He also felt really bad for the team. With only a season and a half of flag football under his belt - ever - he reminded me of our QB conversation before the season started. He said when I get home tomorrow I'm going to practice being QB. I said oh yeah. Yes Dad, I am. I'm in the office taking care of office work shit that Tuesday afternoon. As soon as he's home and says hi, he comes back in his practice gear - cleats, water, the whole thing, and says, I'm going to the park to practice... I'm like okay bud... I give it about 30 minutes or so and I'm just fried with work and decide to head out to check in on him..

I watch this unfold for a while, then approach him. I'm like what are you doing? What's your plan here, Tristan?

Well, first I set up the line of scrimmage so I don't pass it when practicing. The blue cone is where the ball is snapped from. I made the end zone like we do in practice and put the rushing red cone in the middle. I then plan on hiking the ball to myself and running out while trying to throw it in the end zone into the QB net. As a parent watching this happen my heart was really full with pride for his self motivated efforts. Compound that effort with the perspective of a coach. WOW!?! I was compelled to practice with him. So we played for an hour or so. Avin came by and played as a receiver while my old ass rushed Tristan over and over. Yes, my old ass sprinted at him when he hiked the ball. Coming from never playing football before, to playing only as a center / receiver, this kid was throwing zips like his buddy Will did! When Will announced that Slim's universal comment about an injury actually happened... hahah! We opened the opportunity to a number of kids who wanted to try and play QB. A handful of them gave it a go, but ultimately they were better players in their current role. So, we handed the torch over to Tristan because he really could throw... just needed coaching. So, in preparation against the best team in the league this weekend, that's what we did. Practiced!

It's fun to watch both boys grow from having played on the 49ers to where they are today.

For days throughout this week playing football and talking about QB stuff was ALL that Tristan could talk about. It was part excitement and knowing Tristan the way we do, he was also stressn! hahaha

Although Will had injured his wrist, that kid did not stop playing. He still participated in practice, got involved in the plays Dustin was giving. Will would talk about things to look out for and guide Tristan as he gave this a go. A real team player!

The team also responded very well to the new role changes. Attitude was great all around and as weird as it was, that 1.5hr long practice felt like 2 hours. Everyone was having fun and making progress.

Friday morning I was sitting outside by myself and before school, Tristan came out and sat with me. It was a quiet moment and I started talking to him about his new role. I said you're doing great and you have a lot to learn. I told him that you WILL throw interceptions, you WILL drop the ball. I expect you to do that. Do not beat yourself up. It comes with this role. That being said, you will also throw touchdowns. We're not looking for perfection. We're not looking for bombs into the end zone. Just stay calm and move forward.

Although he's only 11, I can talk to him like he's 16. Sometimes mid 20's. He was very receptive of the conversation.

Yesterday morning, game day! he got his chance to play. He woke up asking if he could have some saltines because his stomach was gurgling... the boy had bubble guts of anxiety! hahah :)

Our first game of the season was against the Rams.. we got our asses handed to us.. hahah! we learned A LOT that game! Now with 5 games under our belt, 2 more to go, these guys are by far the best team in our league. They're coached very well and they are just damn ass tall, fast, faster, all around very athletic. They could easily play the older teams and keep up they're that good.

We lost the coin toss which allowed the Rams to play defense.

So first play of the game!

Tristan's playing QB. Set Hike!!! Tristan zips a pass to a player... and BAM! it's snatched by the Rams defense and runs within 5 yards of the end zone. Tristan thankfully pulled the flag just beforehand.

Well shit.

Tristan comes off. I tell him there is a hall of fame quarterback whose first throw as an NFL QB was an interception. Keep your head up.

The Rams ultimately score on that run.

Let's try this again!

Set hike! Tristan steps back, fires away! BAM!!!!!!!!

The Rams defense intercepts again, this time for a touchdown.

Lordy it's going to be a long day! hahaha

This would happen many, many, many times throughout the game. There were perfect throws Tristan would send and they'd be scooped up by Michael Jordan! that boy has HOPPS! ... there were some that Tristan would throw and would come back to the sidelines afterwards and Dustin would be like.... yeah, let's not throw that again. Tristan would take it and just press on.

We had some good runs, some good progress through the field. The Saints we were putting up a fight defensively and had some TD's of our own. We played much better than game one. The whole team did... so did the Rams.

As the "pick sixes mounted" (interceptions followed by a touchdown right away) the score became high enough that the mercy rule kicked in. Score was no longer counted, but teams could continue playing if wanted. Which we did.

There was a time where I could see Tristan chewing on his mouth piece like stressed out 11 year old. I came up to him and said you ok?.. you could hear the rattled voice respond. I asked him "how do we get better?" poor bastard.. says, stop throwing interceptions" (hahaha!). no! I said, we have to fail, we have to mess up... that's how we move forward. He acknowledged it.

Next play or so... another interception. I came up to him, pulling him into me. Tristan! how do we get better? He says, "we have to mess up" I said yes! keep your chin up, you're doing great!

again! another interception. I came up to him, pulling him tightly, Tristan! how do we get better? You can hear the ball in his throat, but he's holding it in, "we have to mess up". yes! we have to move forward. I patted him on the butt and said you're doing great!

again! another mess up.

Tristan! How do we get better? "i have to mess up" correct! just keep moving forward! you're doing great.

It's lame, but I'm all teared up as I recall this. I remember myself looking at him saying, "how do we get better?" the hugs were moments for me to compose myself while guiding him.

He held it together with no self implosion. The Rams are a damn good team. A team that easily had 4-12" on many of our players. It was as stressful a game one could step into. But the team held their own. Even after the pummeling, they all had smiles on their faces. They did well.

Later that afternoon a parent sent us this really cool video clip. It's 6 seconds long. :)

The video is here below:

As beat down as Tristan was, to pass to a buddy, Dylan no less, for a score was a real treat for that kind of day. We have two more games for the season. These last two are literally teams that are built like our Saints. Next Saturday is against the former 49ers. 49ers were changed to the Broncos because that was his daughters favorite team! Broncos are coached by the other parents who decided to coach for the first time when we did. The game will be like a fun territorial cup! :) The competition should be good between everyone. We're excited! I will be sure to keep yall posted. :) GO SAINTS!!

I've been at my desk since about 630am and need to get after it! :) Have a grateful weekend!

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