Only in Texas will you find a tackle football league with a bracket titled ‘Tiny Mites’ for those boys weighing less than 70 pounds and generally between the ages of six to eight. My son is getting ready for his first team practice later this week. Travis is seven.
I know I should not be surprised at the seriousness of this passion for football shared by most Texans. Although I did not grow up here, I have been here since 1988, attending college at Trinity in San Antonio so I have seen first-hand what happens in the fall when football games are heavily attended or watched on Saturdays and Sundays all the way through until Super Bowl Sunday. Parents with young boys get them geared up as early as August even before school is back in session and the temperatures still easily reach the 100 degree mark in the afternoon sun. My husband and I have become just such parents.
Nobody asked me but I would have preferred a few more years of flag football for Travis but he had the chance to play under the tutelage of a fantastic coach and with all of his friends from school so I ambivalently agreed to his joining the team of other Tiny Mites, who will soon be second grade boys. I have a hard time seeing my sweet baby boy suited up in his shoulder pads, helmet, and mouth guard. I cannot even imagine how I will feel when I see him on the field for the first time, tackling other boys or trying to avoid it. I usually don’t get the chance to watch his practices or games. Because we also have a daughter that swims regularly, Tom and I usually split practice chauffeur duty – he takes Danielle to swim while I take Travis to either football or baseball or we swap. Our other two younger daughters just get to go along for the ride. I don’t even want to imagine the logistical complexities of adding another two to the mix of activity scheduling when they are old enough for organized activities. I suppose by then, Danielle will be close to having her own driver’s license so that may alleviate some of the variables in the driving algorithm.
I don’t know if Travis is quite ready for the intensity of tackle football at his young age. The two-hour practices two times a week (and don’t forget the weekly game itself) in the blazing south Texas heat, the heavy equipment required for his safety, and the sheer competitiveness of some of the players and most of the parents. Perhaps I am being too pessimistic, but I am setting my expectations low in the event that they will at worst be met and at best be exceeded. Travis loves to play but doesn’t share the same competitive spirit as his older sister. Her room is full of ribbons and medals from her career as a year-round swimmer. His three seasons on the local swim team has netted him a handful of ribbons, mostly for relay events and usually just for achieving a better time than his last race. In fact, this summer was the first time he won his a heat in freestyle (but not the event itself because he was in one of the slowest heats) and that was great but for the most part, winning or losing just doesn’t seem to motivate or bother him. He just likes to play with his friends. At least he has a good-ol-boy Texas football name.
I look forward to seeing his first game and being caught up in the Texas football craze that descends upon us next month. My college didn’t have much of a football team. In fact, I don’t recall EVER attending a game in the three years I was there and my boyfriend’s (now husband) roommate was ON the team. We never went. The most attention the Trinity football team has ever received was due to ‘the lateral’ play in a game last season that made national sports history and was an ESPN highlight of the 2007-2008 season.
Maybe I will become just as passionate about the game when my son is out there on the gridiron. I don’t know – I will probably be praying, like all mothers of football players, for an injury-free game and season. Se e you out at the stadium!