Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tight End It Is


I have really enjoyed watching Grant embrace everything about being a football player. He's never played organized sports before and while he likes watching football with Curt during the fall, he has never been the little boy running around tossing a ball all day. I don't care if he's the best player on the team, but I didn't want him to be the worst either.

His team practices three times a week from 5:30 to 7 p.m. After driving like a crazy woman two practices in a row, I made it Grant's responsibility to get us to practice on time. He watches the clock, tells me and his sisters when it's 5 p.m., grabs a snack, and starts getting his gear and water bottle ready. Passing the buck to him has been great because now if he's late it's his fault not mine.

The first two weeks of practice were giant group practices with the entire mass of 3rd and 4th graders practicing in front of the plethora of coaches. Then came the draft. I'm not kidding. I knew one of the coaches from nodding and saying "Hi" at the gym, so I was pleased when Grant showed up for practice the next day and was drafted to Coach Paul's team. Curt told Coach Paul, in front of Grant, how happy we were that Grant ended up on Coach Paul's team. Coach Paul said, "Hey I wanted Grant on my team. He's naturally athletic, a hard worker and is going to be a big part of our team this year." Now I'm not sure what the ratio of truth/flattery was in that statement, but you can be sure that Grant heard every word (he told me verbatim with a HUGE smile what his coach said) and you can also be sure that Grant will be loyal to Coach Paul every single day. It was also a relief to me that Grant was falling somewhere in the middle of the pack skill-wise and not at the bottom.

I love to pick Grant up from practice. He's sweaty, exhausted, and high on adrenaline. He jabbers the entire way home about all that he's learned, what he did right, what he feels he needs to work on, and anything memorable the coach told him. Last week he spewed his well-thought-out logic on positions. It went something like this:

Grant: "I REALLY want to be QB (quarterback), but all the players wants to be QB. There's a lot of competition for that spot. I'd hate to put everything I have into trying for QB and not get the position cause then all the other good spots will be taken and I'll be left with positions I don't want."

Me: "Well how do you think you do at QB? Can you throw the ball?"

Grant (somewhat insulted): "YES! But there is another kid on the team who can also throw the ball and he might be better than me. The next position I would want is tight end because you get to block and catch and run the ball. I know I'd be good at that position. Or I'd love to be runningback, but that's another position that lots of kids are going for."

Me: "I think you should just work hard at every practice and listen to what your coach says. It's his job to notice your skills and place you in a position that will best help your team."

Fast forward to this week. When I dropped Grant off at practice, Coach Paul made a big point of welcoming Grant back since he'd missed two practices while we were camping at Crater Lake. He again made pointed comments to me that Grant could hear about the value Grant brought to the team and how glad he was to have Grant back. I was so touched by his intentionality and kindness.

When I picked Grant up, his team was trying to finish their last drill. They were practicing going on the second "Hut" off the snap and if anyone jumped early, they had to do up-downs. A handful of kids on his team kept jumping early and it appeared the drill would never end. Up-downs. Try again. Up-downs. Try again. FINALLY, they finished the drill. I was expecting Grant to be exhausted and grouchy, but he took his helmet off and had a huge smile on his face. He came rushing over to me and said, "Guess what Mom? I get to be Tight End!" He proceeded to explain the plays they ran that involved his position and showed me his play book that he needed to memorize. He didn't care at all that he wasn't QB and was already thinking strategy for how to best play his position.

I still am trying to wrap my head around having a kid old enough to be playing sports. I love how organized, disciplined , and encouragement-focused this program is. I love Grant's hard-working attitude and his ridiculously logical thought process. Tight end it is - can't wait to watch him play!

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