SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Pop Warner Football

The team gathered for its first time in the humid heat of early August, doing padless drills for two and a half hours a day, Monday through Thursday. For the next three weeks, they drilled --in pads -- the same amount of time. 19 kids, although some of them missed weeks for family vacations. 5 dad coaches, the head coach being the guy with the long hair in the pony tail, tattooes, backwards baseball cap, and a good mixture of enthusiasm, organization and firmness. The offensive coordinator put in the offense, going to far as to use a ruler to show the offensive linemen the proper distance between one another on the line. One of the dads worked with the linemen while the coordinator worked with the skill position players, the large enough quarterback (big enough to withstand a hit) running the wishbone with three speedy backs behind him. They ran laps, they caught balls, they ran formations, they switched positions, all with a view to getting ready for the home opener tomorrow afternoon.

The coaches planned, the head coach sometimes fretting because kids missed practices without their parents e-mailing to let him know, or kids got their late, disrupting the discipline he was trying to instill. The kids started to bond during scrimmages against other teams, chest bumping, high-fiving, or showing each other small courtesies such as helping others with their chin strips or by putting shoulder pads that popped out back under practice jerseys. Then they ran some more, or they worked on line play, leveraging themselves and trying to push their opponents around. My son is a 70-pound left tackle, one of the oldest kids on the team but one of the lightest (the heaviest kids must play interior line). He doesn't stop blocking until the whistle blows, and he takes great pride in getting leverage on his opponent and moving him around. Most of the time he does fine, but there are times when his man blows by. Such is the life of a first-time tackle football player protecting his quarterback's blind side and helping lead counter plays. He enjoys the teamwork, the structure, the activity.

Last night was the last practice before their first game. The kids had worked hard together for a month, and it was fun to see them receive the game jerseys with their names on it. Many shed their practice jerseys -- old, monochromatic mesh jerseys -- to don their game jerseys. They had worked hard for this small moment, and they cherished it.

Saturday afternoon marks the first game, and my son cannot wait for it to begin. It should be fun to watch.

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