So I married a Texan. A Texas flag-hanging, Whataburger lovin’, Cowboys fan-till-he-dies, Lone Star Man. And with that comes a lot of extra obligations. Bluebonnets? We don’t pick ’em. H-E-B? I’m sorry, do you mean God’s greatest gift to the world of groceries? Queso at breakfast? What else do you put on top of your breakfast tacos?! But the greatest obligation-nay- the greatest necessity of our home, as you might guess, would have to be: football.
Now I’m an Army brat who was transplanted to Texas in the 8th grade. And even though I do claim it as my home, it doesn’t always claim me back. The giant spiders, poisonous snakes, and the Devil’s front porch summer temps have always built a tiny little wall between me and “The only state that matters” (as my husband and children like to refer to it). The Friday Night Lights have never quite called to me like they do to a lot of other people, namely, Texans. But I now have 3 Army brats. And even though none of their birth certificates say Texas- they might as well be printed on Texas flags. Their Dad and our family has undoubtedly brainwashed *ahem* I mean educated, them into a deep rooted love for all things Texan. For our son, those roots have grown deeply and firmly into a love for Football.
And so here we are. He’ll be 7 this year. And at our Army post in New York, that’s prime time to start playing Flag Football. When he first told me he wanted to play football, I was a little hesitant but not surprised. His cousin, who he looks up to like a brother, played in the All United States Bowl this year. He played in the Texas Youth Allstar Football Showcase twice. Two years ago he gifted my son a set of pads, a helmet, and a mouth guard. My son has never looked back and the helmet has sat on top of his dresser ever since.
Sunday Cowboys games in our family are second only to our church time. When we were lucky enough to be stationed near family in Texas a few years ago our son wore his Cowboy’s “nice shirt” every Sunday and ran to the car to get to his Gigi and Rah’s house in time for kickoff. Last year, on his actual 6th birthday, he got the gift of a lifetime: seeing The Boys play the Chiefs in Kansas City with his dad.
So this summer, when my sweet (not-so) baby boy looked me in my mothering-please-don’t-do-dangerous-things eyes and said “Mom. I want to play football this year,” I was a little hesitant. “Ok… Can you tell me why…?” His answer was enough to make me melt: “Because Dad did.” His dad. Who lives life here and there and anywhere the Army needs him to be. His dad. Who leans over during a football game to explain a play or tell him about a certain player. His dad, who feels most at home during a Cowboys game. Our son wants to play football because it gives him the same exact feeling his dad does: home.
And that was it, ya’ll. I immediately started looking for a place for him to play. I wasn’t quite ready for tackle, which starts at different ages in different states. I decided flag football was a great starting point for us. I was pleasantly surprised seeing that we had lots of options. One thing is for sure: people love football! We were fortunate enough to find a Flag Football League through the Children and Youth Services where we’re stationed. Don’t have this option where you are located? Use the Future for Football League Finder to find a league in your area.
Just my style: close to home and nothing to break the bank over. And when I told him that he gets to play, the gift of his face lighting up was enough to make my on-the-fence football heart move 10 yards. And just like that, I’m entering the World of (Flag) Football.
Here’s what I’ve realized about football as we are on the edge of this new season: Letting them play is like giving my vagabond military kids a little piece of home to hold on to. They weren’t born in Texas. Hopefully they’ll get to move there permanently one day. But for now they’re far from family and far from where they call home. So we watch the game on Sundays because that’s what our family is doing too. We play football in the backyard because Dad gets to teach about the leadership, the work ethic, and the team mentality he learned during two-a-days in the Texas heat. We invite neighbors to play a game in the streets because they’re our family for now. We wear the shirts, and buy the tickets, and cheer loud because, for a little while, we don’t feel so far from home.
So this fall you’ll find me in the cold New York autumn air, cheering on my little flag football player. And I bet, if he has his say, in a few years he’ll be running on the field for his homecoming game. Just like his cousin. Just like his uncles. Just like his Dad. And with any luck, I’ll be there too, cheering until my lungs hurt, cringing at every tackle, remembering these sweet little years, so glad that I him play.
For more information and resources on leagues near you, how to get your child involved in the sport, and so much more, check out the Future for Football website.