As you can imagine with four boys - one in college, two in high school, and Little Man (who is blessedly in the 2nd grade) - and a football coaching husband, I'm asked a LOT about why our boys play football.
With all of the articles and news reports lately about the danger of the sport, I feel inclined to go back and think through it, once again.
As I have many many times, particularly when our guys have experienced severe injuries. Son (#1) was injured more than not during his four years of Varsity football.
I remind myself that we haven't let them play before Jr. High (recent studies have shown that there is much greater long term risk if head injuries occur before the age of 12), how we've purchased concussion preventing helmets, helmet liners, have coaches that watch our boys carefully for injury and take every precaution to keep them safe, coaches who also teach them to hit safely and build strength during off season to hopefully prevent injury.
But when I boil it all down, I'm left with this:
Football is great tool for teaching about the adversity of LIFE.
I want my kids to face defeat, injury (when it happens), loss, cranky teammates, hateful opponents, coaches they may not agree with, hard HARD work, and even physical pain WHILE they are young and can learn how to respond properly - and the Coach and I are around to help them navigate it.
Life is full of these same obstacles. Who hasn't failed? Who hasn't faced an injury of some sort? An authority figure they don't agree with or want to obey? Who hasn't had to get up early even when exhausted? Go to work when it's not fun? Be responsible and show up when we'd rather not?
Football gives my boys an advantage when they become adults. It teaches them (if they are lead by the right Godly men and their parents) so many life skills. So many life lessons. Perseverance. Discipline. Doing what's right even when it's hard.
21 years ago when I first started watching my Coach on the sidelines (how has it BEEN 21 years??), I will admit I didn't get it. I knew he loved it. I didn't understand why.
But after watching 20 classes of senior football players leave our school and head out as adults, I'm more convinced than ever. One of MY senior football players has now been gone for two years. I've seen that he learned many important lessons that have guided him since those high school football days.
Last week, Son (#4) got hurt in the game. I'll be honest, when I saw that it was his knee I almost threw up. We've been through ACL surgery with Son (#3). I would never wish that on anyone and I certainly don't want to go through it, again. But you know what? I immediately thought ABOUT Son (#3). That was a two-surgery/miserable Freshman year. I hated it for him and it was horrible. But how could I look at him, his character, his kindness towards others, his toughness? And wish he hadn't been through those trials?
Trials are where we learn the most. To depend on the Lord, to persevere, to trust in a Sovereign Lord, even when things are difficult. And to keep going, even when the losses pile up.
So this Friday, I'll be cheering on our boys - and one of them will be on the sidelines with his bum knee. Asking the Lord to continue to teach ME, as well. To not protect my kids from the very things that grow them into independent (from us) dependent (on the Lord) adults who will glorify the Lord in their lives and lead others to seek Him (to quote my wise mother-in-law!).
And just because our lives at the troops revolve around football, doesn't mean there aren't countless other ways for our kids to learn these same lessons. Just make sure you aren't so concerned with protecting them that you fail to allow them to do anything hard. I want my boys to grow into strong (and I don't mean physically) men who will work hard, take care of others, and face hardship with patience. It won't happen without some intentionality.
(I just love them so much.)