When Football Becomes Family

Little League Football
Photo by Mason Kehs

I’m holding his pudgy, grimy little hand, feeling his nerves flow through me. We’re sitting on the outskirts of the playground at his new school, and I keep whisper-begging, “Let’s just get a popsicle. All the other kids are playing and having fun. Some of these kids will be in your kindergarten class.” It was the beginning of the year meet and greet, and my son was having none of it…not even the popsicle! Why? Because…people. It was all too much for his little five-year-old self.

Fast forward five years and that same freckle-faced son of mine is using those same pudgy, grimy hands to tackle and take down his opponent. At the end of every football game, I am still amazed that my three sons are out there playing sports, and a team sport at that. I’m so excited that we’ve found a family within our football league.

Military mamas have a whole lot on their plate to think about, especially when it’s PCS season. One of the most mentally consuming things when you’re a mom of military kids, can be thinking about changing schools and lingering over questions like, will I be able to find extracurricular activities for my kids that they have previously been involved with? Will they have the same chances to play as the other kids who have been on the team before? Will they fit in? Will they find a group that accepts them?

I honestly never thought that I would have kids who played sports. But a few years in, we’ve tried swimming, gymnastics, indoor soccer, baseball, basketball, flag football, and tackle football. And let me tell you that, despite the schedule three kids in football demands, watching my little dudes in their football uniforms every Saturday in the Fall melts my heart. And I am their biggest cheerleader.

My boys have found football teams that feel like family at two different duty stations. They aren’t always the league champions, but guess what, they have grown into great teammates and improved from their first practice to their last game. This is my youngest son’s second season, and while last year he was still figuring out what offense and defense were by the end of the season, he’s been a starting player every game this year.

If you spend time in military social media groups, you know that daily, almost hourly, there are posts about “My child is X years old, and we want to be involved in X sport/activity. Where can we find that around here?” Well, Future for Football saved me when PCS time rolled around. I was skeptical that they would list a football league in our area, but sure enough, the league we now play for is listed. And it’s a fantastic football family. I wanted to search for a few other locations that we’ve lived in before, and guess what, even “Why Not Minot” has teams listed on the Future for Football site. It’s awesome! It will even list different types of leagues, such as flag or tackle ball.

Moving season is stressful enough for our military members, us moms, and the little people we care so much about.  Having an “easy button” for finding that football family in your new town is a life saver. It can help you get connected just a bit earlier so you aren’t wasting time searching down teams and missing registration deadlines, because the heavy lifting has already been done for you.

There’s something about being part of that team family. Our coaches here on our Niceville Football Little League team are dedicated to making sure our boys are safe, learn about football, have fun, work hard, support one another, and develop as young men. Siblings connect and play on the sidelines, parents collectively gasp when a player is knocked down, and the crowd energy soars when the kids make a great play!  We feel our wins together and our losses together. It’s a place I never thought I would be, but now it’s one I can’t imagine not being a part of. 

No matter whether you’re Team Kelce or Team Taylor. There’s a place for you in the football family.

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Ellen Kehs
Ellen Kehs was born and raised in Evanston, Illinois where she met and later married her high school sweetheart, Mason. Together they’ve traveled the world, most recently touching down in Florida in June 2022. She’s a mom to three little boys, Theodore (eleven), Woodrow (nine) and Maximus (six). Life is never boring with her boys! Ellen loves being a military spouse and she embodies the “bloom where you are planted” mentality. In addition to soaking up whatever current city she’s living in, she is passionate about reading and getting books in the hands of children, as well as helping other mamas connect with each other. She has a bachelor’s degree in secondary English education, a master’s degree in adolescent literacy and technology, and she teaches full-time online, in addition to being a stay-at-home mom. Her hobbies include, exploring, reading, swimming, napping, snapping pictures, playing games, baking, and loving on the little men in her life.