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.