Friday, March 8, 2013

SHEN Football - The Early Years

Last week I got a note from a mom who wanted me to talk about Christopher's football career.  Why he chose the sport and how he felt about it.  I thought I'd run you through it to the best of my recollection.  
Keep in mind, football was much more of a passion between Chris and his dad than me.  I only know the basics of what is happening on the field, my focus was always more on the safety aspect as well as the socializing.
Honestly, I don't know for sure that football was even a desire of Chris's when he was in Kindergarten.  All I can tell you for sure is that he was a ball of energy and could run non-stop.  He was rarely tired as a youngster and would play any sport.  He dominated the pint sized soccer field when he played on the Clifton Park team, so much so that it was embarrassing when he wouldn't stay in his designated position and kept chasing all the opposing players to steal the ball.  I don't think he liked the rules of playing in a zone. We moved him on to football when Fall rolled around. 

Flag football is what the little ones play first.  It's not tackle, but they wear these belts with long plastic tabs hanging down and the idea is for the other player to yank the "flag" off to stop the play rather than tackle one another.  It's safer for the little kids and teaches them the basics of the game.  They move up to the tackle program much later,

I recall the medical form that came home when we were going to sign Chris up... I refused to put my signature on it.  I wasn't sure of this football thing.  My brothers played basketball and baseball.  Football was not a part of my life and I wasn't signing a document holding the school harmless if Chris got hurt.  Nope.  Mike signed it.  I was skeptical and hesitant.
 Turned out Chris loved playing, of course.  I'm sure you knew that already as he never missed a year.  He adored most everything about it so far as I can remember.  Seemed like we were early to arrive and late in leaving even those really early years.  Mike used to volunteer working on the sidelines doing "chains" so we seemed to hang around the filed a long time.  The chain gang are the people on the sidelines that hold the flag that tells what down it is as well as the measurement of moving the ball ten yards.  I don't even know if I said that right. I got dragged into doing it more than once when Chris was young and although I'm glad I can say I tried it, I also know I didn't like doing it.  It confined me to the visitor sidelines so I was unable to move about. Did I mention football was not my thing?  I paid more attention to being sure Chris was suited up properly and warm on the field.

It didn't take me long as the time passed on the football field to dress Chris in two pairs of socks.  Have you ever noticed that in his photos?  That was intentional so I could find him! 
He always seemed to end up in a heap under a pack of players and so the idea of having him wearing two pairs of socks meant that I could locate him quicker.  It came in handy more times than I could ever tell you.  I used to panic when I knew he'd been tackled and I'd frantically start looking at all the cleats in search of double socks!  He wore tall green ones and white anklets most of the time.  I thought I had a secret thing going on until I started seeing some other players in double socks too,  damn!  I thought I had cornered the market on that idea.
I learned relatively quickly how to wash pads and put football pants back together.  There's a certain way the pads go in the pants and certain sizes for the thighs and hips.  If your son is new to it, you'll learn.  You'll also break into a sweat just trying to squeeze your kid into his gear!  I always said Chris looked great suited up though.  His uniform always fit snug and nothing wiggled or flopped around.  He was secured into his clothing from head to toe.  The smelliness of the pads were another thing to get used to but any mom that loves her boy would be willing to deal with that.
I used to bring a red cooler to the games that had a flat top.  Chris used it as his private seat when he was on the sidelines.  I kept it filled with ice and a wet cloth and when he ran off the field I would toss that wet cloth over his head to cool him down.  I never saw another parent do that but I didn't care.  Too bad, he was sweaty and I was concerned he would overheat!  Sometimes he would roll his eyes at me but most times he was appreciative.  I think he expected it after a while. Yes, I realize it's a rough and tumble sport and I should have let him tough it out with the rest of the players.  Well, I didn't.  I wanted to cool him down.  He liked the cold cloth draped around his neck or head.  Shoot sometimes the other players came to me so they could use it and they always knew I had ice in that handy dandy cooler.  
So, moving on throughout Junior Plainsmen (like Pop Warner), Chris was learning a lot about the different positions and the creative side of running plays and outsmarting the opponent.  He was a good size even as a youngster and held his own confidently.  He seemed to have a knack for knowing exactly where the play was headed and did a great job with his quick feet and speed.  I used to ask him to "do the spin move" for me when he was out on the field.  I thought it was pretty cool that he could do a fast pivot when the ball was snapped.  (This was the kind of stuff that excited me!... more than a tackle or a sack). I was always watching his feet.

Chris loved the sport.  He loved the camaraderie of the team as well as the progression of the skills he learned and the coaches he had.  I always liked being at the field and talking to a new parent about our children.  Inevitably someone would say "You're Chris Stewart's mom?  I know him, he's a great kid!"  What mom wouldn't eat that right up?  I know I did, every time.  And, the thing is, they didn't say it because he was an exceptional player, it's because he was such a socialite he talked with the parents as much as the other kids.  I guess I would say he was an equal opportunity chatterer :-)  Another "Christopherism"... he would talk to anyone and everyone around him.
I know this is turning into a blog more about my opinions than how he saw things on the field.  That wasn't my initial intention.  I guess I went off on several tangents about life at the games.  We had thirteen years of it!  I liked everything about it but the cold, the wind and the rain!  I had thirteen years of that too!  It made for some great memories though.  I mean, what's football without chilly weather?

Chris always enjoyed the end of year pizza party and awards.  The little guys had their gathering on the field when the season was over.  The coach would say a few words about each player and they would get a trophy and some words of encouragement about their season.  That was always fun.  The anticipation of each boy waiting for his moment to be acknowledged could be felt by each parent.  It was exciting.  I recall how proud Chris was to hear his name and step forward.  All his trophies are in his room from 2001 right on thru 2013.  That's special.
I'm glad Chris picked football to embrace.  He found a special ball club to participate in and wrap his heart and hands around.  He made tons of friends and learned skills way beyond ball handling.  The game is a mental challenge.  It takes a strong will to succeed and continue yearly with each physical pummeling along with the required workouts and longevity of practices.  Chris fussed sometimes, he ached a lot of times and was slow getting out of the house many times but he never gave up on the sport.  His enjoyment went way beyond any pain he endured.  The brotherhood of SHEN football was a part of Christopher's makeup as well as a huge part of his life.  Thirteen of seventeen years in the same program is pretty impressive!  So glad he found something so inspiring to him at such a tender age.  It made a huge difference.

Thank you for reading.


  1. Hi Regina.

    I can honestly say I don't know how you handled that 13 years of stress and worry, but can understand the pride!! I think it's awesome you came up with 2 different socks to make Chris stand out... I can understand the ice/cooler and wanting to be there for him. My ex-husband would always get mad at me for "babying" my son when all I was doing was being a Mom. I worried about the heat and the sports from an early age.

    Jeff did baseball and soccer as soon as he could during the younger years and evolved into track.
    He was too small to play football and and settled well into track 3 seasons a year from 7th grade, until his injury. The fear I always worried about, and still cringe about when I see other athletes playing, came true for Jeff. He got tackled playing 2 hand touch and was injured to the point of not being able to ever do contact sports again.

    It's amazing how we change as Mom's when we get involved in a way like you did, and like I did. It's amazing how our interests change and how we evolve to find passion and joy in what they are doing. Reading your blog I can see that you embraced what Chris was doing. It's so important to be there to support. I know parents that just drop off and pick up and I never understood that. It's what works for them, but I never want to miss anything my kids are/were involved in. Thirteen years in the same program is impressive. I'm glad you have those memories and have shared them with us. The pictures of the football guys! They look like grown men! It's amazing to me how old they look.

    Thank you for sharing some more of Chris with us. I said a hello to him today when the # 69 flashed in front of me during a movie. I thought you would like to know that.

    God bless...

    1. Justine,

      Like you I am always there for my kids games. I do not understand the parents that never are. My one son has a friend whose parents never went to one game of his and it broke my heart. I remember a game when he got injured and all of us moms were so sad neither of his parents had bothered to show up again! We were all so worried about him!

      Made me laugh post was longer than yours! I love your responses!


  2. Funny that you came up with the socks idea to pick him out of the crowd. When my boys were little and played t-ball, their numbers were only on the backs of their shirts. When they were out in the field, with those hats on their heads, all the players looked the same. In t-ball you rotate positions, and it was tough to pick out my boys. So I changed the laces in their cleats to a bright neon color, and from that time on, I always knew where they were! My middle son will be playing his senior year of baseball at Guilderland this Spring. I no longer need the laces, (he would never allow that now even if I tried..) He plays outfield, and not always the same spot. I can now identify his stance, with his gloved hand on his hip. Based on your post the other day, I just thought I'd share this with you. I faithfully read your posts every day. I tried to respond to your post inquiring what I was doing when I heard about the accident, and how I felt, but I couldn't stop crying. I will try again another time. Not a day goes by that I don't think of you, Chris, Deanna, Bailey, Matt, and all the families. As I sit here and wait for my oldest son to come home, in the last three months I still haven't quite found a way to repress the panic I feel whenever my kids are on the road. And every night since then, before I go to sleep, I remind myself of how thankful I am that they are safe. To say I am in awe of your strength is an understatement. Yes, you inspire. Please keep writing. I'll keep reading. Thank you, and know that I will never forget.

  3. I am writing to thank you for the two sock tip. I will be encouraging my son to wear two socks the next football season. Allthough I dont know if i can cconvience him to do so. He is 13 and has his own idea of cool and that may not be to wear two sock so mom can find you from the sidelines. I felt like I was reading a blog wrritten by myself as I read that blog. My son also fell in love with the sport of football. I refused to let him play as a little guy and made him wait until he was 10 to play. I just could not bring myself to sign those forms. The danger of injury was just to much for me. Well when he turned 10 after 5 years of begging to play I finally agreed. I have to say he fell in love with the sport and the brotherhood he felt with his teammates

  4. Regina,

    Oh the sports memories with both my husband I being PE teachers we encouraged sports for our 3 kids, even my youngest who is into the theatre played her share(thankfully or I wouldn't have gotten to know Dawn that well, our Baileys' played basketball together for quite a few years, and let me tell you, Bailey Wind was an excellent basketball player! The diving world gained a huge talent, but she could have been just a successful in the basketball world!)

    My son played every sport like Chris,one year he was playing pop-warner, rec soccer and hockey all at the same time! Ovay!!! we never realized that hockey would start before the other 2 ended, wouldn't change that crazytime for anything...but we didn't make that mistake again!Did I mention that the other 2 were also involved in sports at that time too, or that my husband was unable to help due to his college hoop season starting October 1st...did I say crazytime?..but I digress this isn't about me and my juggling, but still I wouldn't change it for anything!!! LOL

    I too have done the cooler thing and no one thought it strange like you said the other boys were grateful too. Or Girls in the case of my oldest playing AAU basketball in the heat of the summer in stuffy gyms! Those icey cold rags were very welcome! I bring a cooler now for my varsity softball team, it seems we go straight from the winter tundra to the desert heat(spring warmth is limited it feels) and I want them to stay cool so i bring a cooler, once a mom always a mom, I will mother anyone who needs it, or who will let me.

    I love that you talked about Chris' passion for the sport he loved, and I love how people acknowledged you for being Chris Stewart the kids mom and not the great football players mom. Those are awesome feelings, and it does make a mom beam with pride when someone else comments on your child as an individual or as a standout athlete or performer. I think about the movie the Grinch where in "Who-ville they say that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day"...That is what your heart feels like when someone else talks about your kid!!!

    Regina your heart must have grown 10 sizes with all the awesome stories you are hearing about your amazing boy!!!

    Keep writing and I will keep reading...Peace to you!

    God Bless, XO

  5. Regina,

    My daughter played basketball and softball for many years and she loved both. All three of the boys tried baseball. My oldest son played t-ball and then five years of baseball. My younger two both did t-ball and one year of baseball. It was too much standing around for!

    Two of my sons played hockey, two played football and I can totally relate to all the hours spent practicing, playing and watching games in the cold. My older son, who's my second child, played hockey from the time he was 5 until he was 18. For many years he was on the same team, same coaches, same kids. It was a great experience. It was awesome to watch them go from young kids playing to young men. We have so many great memories from those years. Lots of fun times and some great weekend trips!

    My third child, second son, played hockey from the time he was 6 until he was 15. He also started playing football when he was in 8th grade. He played one year of pop warner, and three years of JV. He loved both sports. Unfortunately he tore his meniscus and had to have surgery so he did not play his senior year. He wanted to play football for a long time but he was so big for his age that his size always put him in an age category with kids 3 years older! Same with my youngest son! That totally freaked me out and I would not budge on letting them play until they got older because I was worried about them getting injured! Funny about the socks! Both my boys wore the tiny ones that you could not see above their shoes and that's how I would pick them out on the field!

    My youngest son, who is Chris' age, started playing modified football in 7th grade. Played his first game, broke his hand skateboarding that night. Eighth grade he played modified again, last game of the season, last 5 minutes of the game a huge kid, #69 from Shen, tackles him. Connor gets up shaking his left hand. Find out later on it's broken and he has surgery and a screw is put in. Ninth grade, starts doubles and he left hand is bothering him. We see his orthopaedic surgeon - screw has slipped and must be taken out - end of season! Tenth grade - left leg starts bothering him mid-way through the season, team trainer thinks it's a pulled muscle. Season ends, leg feels better. Come January and they start working out, leg pain starts. Start seeing doctors, call his ortho to get a recommendation for one who specializes in hips in the practice. We see him and find out his laberal hip band is completely torn and he needs to have surgery. 5 month recovery process! So Connor gives up football!! Guess waiting didn't matter and all those years people told me I was crazy to let my boys play hockey because it WAS A DANGEROUS SPORT!!! No surgeries from hockey. LOL!! So I can totally relate to why you did NOT want to sign the papers, me either!

    But my boys loved playing football. It was lots of fun hanging out in the stands with the parents and cheering the kids on! My boys made lots of great friends through football! So many great memories!

    My youngest loved basketball and played for seven years. Funny but my oldest son only tried it one year...not enough action for him, hockey was his love! My other son played for a few years, but he also loved hockey more. The three boys played lacrosse too. My older two for several years. (My son, Jeffrey's, coach was Scott Marr, who is now the UAlbany lacrosse coach, pretty cool). I have to say of all the sports they played, hockey was my favorite...I loved the fast paced action.

    Sports are a great way for our children to build life long skills, to make life long friends and to make lasting memories. Okay, I've rambled!

    Thanks for sharing.
    hugs and peace

  6. Regina,

    Thank you !! I love the double socks I am going to do that. Right now my son is in tackle camp and I am already a nervous wreck. He is not a small kid by any means. But when they are all on the field they all look the same I am constantly saying where is he?? I was a bit hesitant at first to let him join because I was so nervous he would get hurt.I get the eye roll also...I am always checking his helmet. Last night he said mom stop it im fine! There are a lot of things you say about Chris that remind me of son. My son has a heart of gold and makes everyone laugh all the time. When you are down he is by your side to make you feel better. I see already how passionate he is about football at the age of 9. I hope he sticks to it. He also plays baseball but he is very excited for football. I appreciate you taking time to write this blog. Thank you for sharing your memories with us It means a lot to me! Hugs to you!

  7. Regina,
    13 years in one sport is amazing. That is a passion. I am remembering my oldest playing soccer. Started out as rec but turned into travel tryouts in August playing started in September and went all the way to the CP tourney in July. I remember his first CP tourney we had to leave early because my son was getting way over heated and there was no shade to sit under. I had made sure he was drinking plenty of water but it wasn't good enough. After that I made sure I had a tarp and a cooler with ice and a water spray bottle with a fan. All my kids played baseball and softball. Now it is just my Chris he has been playing baseball for 7 years and he just loves it. He works out to build his strength. He did play Allstars a couple of years ago and that was during July and August. We had a really bad heat wave and it was his birthday July 21 and the heat index was over 100 degrees. I had my handy tarp, my cooler with ice and water and a cloth in the cooler for the whole team. I also had a second cooler for ice cold drinks and cupcakes ( for his birthday). We won the game and celebrated Chris's birthday. This year we are doing travel baseball for the first time and he is so excited. As a matter of fact we have to go to practice soon. I want my Chris to have the same heart and passion for baseball that your Chris had for football. I know he has it I think he sometimes holds back thinking he can't do it when I know he can. I am sorry if I went off in another direction, been a long crazy week. Thank you and God bless

  8. Chris reminds me so much of my son.. He was a bundle of energy and from the time he was crawling around he had a ball of some sort in his hands.. We bought him every Tonka Truck and Matchbox Car and so on and he would find his ball and play with it. He was introduced to Hockey when he was 3 by a neighbor's son who had just started playing. Well this boy gave him an old hockey stick of his and Bryan slept with it that night.. He wanted to play all sports..We would have 6 AM Ice time and he would skate for an hour and we would take him off the ice, carry him out to the car, I would change him on the way to the soccer field and he would pay a soccer game.. How he did it I don't know.. He would have another Hockey game in the afternoon.. I remember on his travel league we came to Clifton Park a few times.. He wanted to play Football.. but I told him there was just no way we could do all 3 sports in one day.. I didn't want him to play Hockey. it was tough sport.. dangerous and tough. I would worry and watch his every move.. He played center.. I was so relieved that he was too small for defense.. As he got older the sport got rougher. checking and such came in play.. so I understand how you felt about him playing Football. But you allowed him to do what he loved the most.. and that was so important..

  9. It was a great game. Enjoyed a lot. Winter Soccer Camps are organised to get out of the boring and lazy routine of winters. I personally am in favour of Winter Soccer Camps to be held. I recently found a website giving opportunities to enter into this activity very easily and economically regarding organizing. Click here Winter Soccer Camps to see more.

  10. I can't never do this. This will take a lot of guts and dedication to play this sport for so long. Amazing passion you have!

    big ten football