Football in the Season of Covid-19
We are never at home, but we are always together. That sums up our sports-centered lifestyle. Football has been a huge part of our lives for as long as I can remember. One time season ticket holders, we let that go when we started having kids due to limited time and budget. As the kids got older, we began the park ball life. First in flag football, then to tackle. My boys now both play high school football, one varsity, one JV. My husband has been on the board of the park and the school Quarterback Club. We love the spirit, friendships, community, and competition football has brought to our family.
A Different Type of Season
However, I cannot talk about anything this year without acknowledging Covid-19 in every aspect of our lives. It changed everything, there is no question about it. And writing about football feels strangely inconsequential in light of it, even with the benefit of hindsight of how important football is in our lives usually. So, I’m writing about it not to make light of the global struggles we face, but because I’ve always looked at sports as a metaphor for life. Because there are some lessons that are only adequately conveyed through experience. Teamwork, sacrifice, dedication, preparation, losing, and winning. I have been lucky that my boys have had amazing coaches and teammates who invested in them.
Football should be fun. It’s ”just a game” after all. I am a lunatic most games and my . . . we will call it “passion” . . . is not really appreciated by my kids. I ask myself, am I trying to live vicariously through my kids (I am not athletically gifted at all)? Why am I so competitive and why do I expect near perfection from teenagers playing a game? When I write it out, it makes me sound like a bit of a crazy person. But then a global pandemic hits and football becomes the one tiny bit of “normal” you get, and all the lessons come into view.
Football and Life Lessons in a Pandemic
Because of the quarantine, spring training was cancelled. No big spring game. Workouts were cancelled. I saw coaches get creative in Zoom meetings and ask varsity players to check in on and try to remotely mentor other players. Kids were creative with workouts. Coaches posted the players’ “quarantine activities” like fishing, horseback riding, and family activities on social media to keep them connected and engaged. Coaches in our area strongly encouraged players to continue independently and safely conditioning and working out. It was not a matter of if but when football would start back, and no one wanted to be behind.
No matter the circumstances, you can be prepared. Because even in normal times, a player could get hurt, a team cancel, a coach leave. Preparation and consistency is key in football and in life. There will be unforeseen circumstances, but you can decide how you will handle them. Do you panic, or do you prepare?
Do not take anything for granted.
Absolutely nothing is guaranteed. Leave it all on the field, and do your absolute best every single time because it could be your only shot. Week to week the teams didn’t know what would happen, the fate of the season was not in their hands but those of health officials, school boards, ASHSAA, and superintendents and, honestly, the virus itself. There could be an outbreak. Things can change in an instant, so make the most of every single opportunity because you are not promised another chance tomorrow.
Be a good teammate.
It really is as simple as teamwork. But today good teamwork looks like wearing your mask to protect others, setting a good example by following the health rules, not just team rules. Understand that your actions on and off the field impact your entire team. Players are held to a higher standard and they have expectations placed on them, because someone is always watching. I hate to lose! Hate it! And I’m not the one playing! But there is no greater compliment I can have as a mother than when I get four, five, or six texts during or after a game telling me, “He is absolutely killing it out there” or “He had a great game” or “I’m so proud of him.” I don’t share that to brag. I share that to say, those are the texts I get about my boys after a loss! Which brings me to my final point.
Winning isn’t everything.
Wait! What? My name is Christine and I hate to lose. I’ve said it. But, right now just getting to play football feels like a victory. Masks, social distancing, and changes in all of our treasured pre- and post-game rituals. My kids are creatures of habit. I’m pretty superstitious and set in my ways. We miss the band at away games and “defense dinners” and senior meals. This season has taught us we are not in control and we can find a blessing in doing something new. We are able to learn and grow and thrive, even in uncertain times. Furthermore, time with family and friends is always a win. Seeing your teammates succeed is always a win. Meeting a personal goal is a win! Yes, in times like these even “moral victories” are a win!
It is hard to fail . . .
At the beginning of the year, our coach shared a quote with the team and parents from Teddy Roosevelt: “It is hard to fail, but it is worse to never have tried to succeed.” So powerful in hindsight seeing how life has changed in these seven months. No matter the obstacle, the challenge, or the risk, sometimes what is most important is that we show up and do our best. In football and in life.