The last supper
It's easier to recognize now, but I have a confession to make... The last time I enjoyed being a football parent was back when Avin played middle school football. It was the time when he first stepped onto that field to do something I never saw him doing. They won the championship that year. [#77 is a champion] .. it was a hell of a ride. Quickly fast forward three years ahead now to today, Junior year high school football. Man! What a pain in the ass it had been!... more stress than joy. Honestly... I was a super asshole about it. I did not do a good job managing my attitude about the topic nor did I make the stresses in the house any less regarding all things football. Aside from my adult frustrations of today, when I was in high school I quit playing football because I didn't want to get hurt or be yelled at. My Sophomore mind came to that very conclusion and I quit because I didn't want to deal with that kind of shit. I would ultimately suffer the fallout of being called a quitter for that entire year, but for me it was worth it. Now, as a grown ass man, the same thoughts come to the surface... oftentimes showing up aggressively. Which does no one any good. I think the universe enjoys making an ass of me... Who knew my future would hold a son that wants to play football and tolerate all the crap I did not want to do as a kid... and not too far after, another son of mine also wants to pursue the same thing. Ugh! no winning! haha One thing that these grateful thoughts provide me weekly is that I am in my head every day all the time... preparing for next week's topic. Expressing myself through vulnerable words, playful ideas, story telling... constantly looking inward.. "self reflecting" Avin had been struggling this year as the demands of the football commitment have become more serious. It's not middle school football anymore. It's high school... and you're an upperclassman. In my moment of equally struggling with him, something paused the distaste of football in my heart and let my brain kicked in... "hey asshole!!!"
"why don't you look at the situation differently"
"instead of complaining about things, how about you get involved?!"
Well then?! ...
Like a stern talking to... myself showed up, pulled me aside, and reminded me that I only have so much time left with my kids, so don't waste your time with them... the clock's ticking. How about you take these few years you've got left and contribute something... maybe, just maybe, your son, one who looks up to you, might hear you, might see you care... which will make him also care differently and feel differently. Damn.... shit. saying that out loud, putting those thoughts down in the open truly brings a tear to my eye. Welling up like a bitch here. Damn. Fricken kids! making us better people!!! So I listened to myself. Like really heard the inner voice telling me what to do. Like swinging a hammer with all your might, no form, nothing, just complete exhaustion and a lot, like A LOT! of bent nails... if you simply just need to loosen your grip, whip the wrist a little, the traction you get behind the swing is so much more powerful, so much less exhausting, and a lot more impactful. Suddenly the cloud of frustration was gone. I was talking to my child, seeing my child, seeing moments beyond pickup and drop off... one's that his now young mind will always remember. Sadly, for the first time, man i feel like an ass saying this, for the first time for football, I was present!.. I burned up Freshman and Sophomore year already... Although Junior year had started - it wasn't over! Best not waste anymore time and make the time count! So I did. And dammit! I'm so frickin happy I pulled my head out of my ass! I no longer saw just machoness, tough and gruff, too many commitments, money, time, money, time, time, and money. That's all I saw for years. Suddenly, like notes coming off the pages into turning into music I could see it... see all of it. The smell of the grass, the lights, the joys, the struggle, the free time others commit, the demands, the everlasting memories of each child, the family memories of watching, the contribution, the need for help, the need for assistance, the young boys transforming into men... I could see all of it. And it meant something! damnit did it ever mean something! Now with an intentional mind and an open heart I started paying attention to everyone and everything... My son plays football, yes, but also many others do too. How fascinating it is to be brought into their circles as well, seeing their struggles, their growth. I could see how being a supportive parent extended beyond just your own kid. It's a team effort, so does the support. With that kind of mindset shift, the idea turned into action, and I made a change. I was talking to Chas about what I was seeing unfold. My comments were not really complaints anymore as much as they were observations. I was saying this, and that, which turned into a nice dialogue between us. She ended up saying, "you need to quit telling me and let the booster team know"... I was cavalier about it like, Nah.... not me, it's cool, thanks, they got this... If you've ever been a sports parent, you'll know there's always a disconnect between the parents, booster, and coaching staff.. the natural drama of such things usually run rampant. As a parent, I know for me at least it's: I didn't know that was happening? Where's the money going? What number is that kid? What position do they play? Man, that kid is totally a favorite! so on and so forth... With only a couple weeks into Avin's football season I could see there was a disconnect. It didn't help either that when we would pick up Avin after practice no matter how many questions we asked he didn't have much to ever say about how things went.. it was like pulling teeth sometimes hahah! Working on my attitude was front and center for me and I was actively trying to see things differently. I knew I couldn't commit to being a booster parent because I already have so much on my plate. I also knew I couldn't commit the time to learning to be a coach.. all I knew was that I wanted to get involved in some fashion. Days after my recalibration, there I am minding my own shit installing new hinges on our hallway doors and it hit me.. like made my hands sweat and heart rate increase kinda hit me.
What if there was something that included the needs of the team, booster, coaching staff all mixed into one?! Like a newsletter, paper something....
Shit.. I could do that.. hell yes I could!!
Suddenly I stopped what I was doing and told Chas. She was really supportive and equally excited too. I could feel a high come over me. Dude! I was jacked! I was having an entrepreneurial seizure! Wandering thoughts went wild! All kinds of ideas started pouring out of me! To not miss anything, I flooded my phone with note taking.. I thought that such a thing should include previous game and team stats.. maybe a recap from the coach?... hell, even a plug for what parent was donating the meal that night. Have a spot for the booster and coach needs/updates... definitely where the next game was being played - like address and all! it's gotta have a roster! yes! and who the coaches are! and how bout a player highlight?! one that's randomly pulled from a hat. They could be a freshman all the way up to senior! hell yeah! 100%!! not your typical questions though, stuff that takes time to answer.
Man I was excited!
Before the next game I crudely sketched up an idea of what I was thinking and met the main booster Mom to get her incite. (I wish I had a picture of the drafted design).. I called it a "HOTLIST" It was to be branded in team colors and logos.. gotta be professional looking! I told her I wanted it to not look like a parent put it together. hahah! We added and adjusted content with the intent to put a mock up together using stats from the previous game to then share with the coach for buy in before execution. The plan was to deliver the hotlist to the team on the Thursday team meals which was the night before Friday's game.
Sur'nuf that's what we did. Lots of positive feedback all around from the coach! Sweet!
I could feel my overall attitude evolve into what it should have been! With the hotlist blessing I was thankful that we had really only missed out on 3 prior games. There was still a lot of the season left with 7 more games. Better late than not at all. Best to execute the idea and figure it out as we go! and that's exactly what we did!
Coincidentally, when I created the first hotlist to present to the team, it was our family's job to provide the team meal that week - timing was perfect. So after the meal was handed out to the boys, I took a quiet moment, collected my thoughts, tabled my light anxiety and presented the idea to the team, then handed it out. Since it was the first go, I used the coach as the team highlight.
I was really pleased with how much time Coach spent on the answers to the questions. It set the president for the team moving forward.
I remember years ago reading about the late Steve Jobs. There was a moment when he doubted the success of the i-pod when it was first released. He said that he got off a train or a bus one time and started walking away. While looking around he saw dozens of people wearing the infamous hyper "apple white" earbuds. He knew right then he had nailed it.
After handing out the hotlist I stayed back and managed the flushed cool down I had after delivering such an idea to a bunch of kids really. I think I wouldn't have been so quietly wound up had I not put so much emotion into it all... I had no clue how they would take to the idea.
There I stand watching things... The boys were digesting all the details while eating amongst themselves. I then could hear offline playful shit talking about the coaches answers to the questions. Then sideline conversations picked up about why they liked a certain superhero.
I did not know it until just then, but unfolding before me was...
my "apple white earbud" moment.
Witnessing the random organic conversations everyone was having with each other, circled around this "idea" I had, warmed my once cold football heart to the core. The entire idea was motivated by needing to change my negative perspective about football. I wanted to get involved with something that was important to Avin. I wanted to help everyone, but I truly wanted to connect with my son in a positive manner using what little time I had left of his childhood memories.
My heart was full! I could see the potential for the remainder of the season.
The next week would come, and so would the next, and next. Conversations were happening on the drive home from practice. I was connecting with Avin. I was getting involved with the team, the families of the team, and boys individually. I got to read the time they spent on their questions. Each one responded with care and intent. Their answers were deep. For me, I could feel a connection to them even though I couldn't pick them out of a line up! hahah :) Nothing was short of a full heart.
As the weeks would continue I got feedback that the boys looked forward to this every week... I called it a hotlist, the team culture called it a newsletter. I could feel anticipation for the next week's newsletter.. in doing so, it also made me look forward to the upcoming games.
The tension at home dwindled entirely. Football was no longer a problem for me. We at home could see a difference in Avin's attitude and game performance. I just wished that I had made this mindset change sooner, however, I was happy I had enough time to make a difference in my approach rather than wish I had when there was no time.
Last night was the last game for the 2021-2022 football season. Sadly, Avin would dislocate his knee with only 3 games left. It was super heartbreaking to see, especially considering his growth after my recalibration. Just 20 years ago or so in high school I too ripped my knee with the same outcome as Avin's. I knew exactly how he felt and that shit was painful! He's still limping around with a zombie/Frankenstein waltz, but he's showing up to every practice and is down on the field slapping helmets, cheering his team along. Although he's not playing, we still get joy out of watching him be a team player.
It was the last game yesterday - Senior Night. That also meant that this past Thursday would be the last supper of the season and the final delivery of the team's newsletter. Years ago I had made Avin a special Christmas gift that circled around him and football [Fairweather fan gets drafted] . I had so much fun making that for him that I wanted to extend the joy I had for this year with the boys...
It being the last supper, I stepped things up and made one of these for each player highlight.
Shit they look awesome!
A framed and matted print out of their gameplay picture along with their uniquely answered questions.
All with a touch of fine details! :)
Each personally noted for each player :)
Following the distribution of the final newsletter at the teams last supper, the newsletter where the booster team told us the season's closing details... the one where the coach thanked the team and congratulated the seniors specifically as it was their last high school football game ever... (it was doing exactly what it was designed for) I couldn't be happier!! :) with a little less anxiety than the first issuance, I told the boys I had something special. :)
I called everyone up one by one, shook their hands, and gave them their framed highlight.
To see the connections made by the gesture of an emotionally lead newsletter was everything that I hoped it to be. Making these final highlights and handing them out to each player was a lot of fun for me.
The boys played very well last night, closing the year off with a win at home - couldn't have been better. I'm just bummed that I don't have an opportunity to report that game's final standings with the team this Thursday. I'm already looking forward to next season and the seasons to follow. This Gud report will be hard to not do year after year. :) I'm beyond grateful for such an opportunity. :) Just had to share with a buddy! Have a grateful weekend my friend! :) Chas and I are here if you need anything!