So here you are, packing up the SUV for your son’s 2013 season opener. Whether he is a wide-eyed rookie or a senior prospect, the rush of anticipation, expectation and promise fills the air. Do yourself a favor, roll down the windows and clear it out a bit.
For just a moment, stop looking at the depth charts, the rankings, the odds. Stop reading the message boards, the tweets and the blogs. Stop looking at him with the eyes of a scout and see him for what he is – your son.
I could guess the general perception of my own family would be that we’re blindsided by the game. In fact, as my daughter wrote in her college essay: “Sometimes, as a family, we laugh at the implication. I am sure that any outsider would imagine that we sit around the dinner table discussing strategy, perfecting acceleration, eating raw meat, doing herkies after dessert.”
While it is true, football is what we do, both professionally and passionately, what I love most is how the game continues to fine tune our character. Through the years, we have rode the ebb and flow of this emotional game. From high school state championship wins (3) and losses (1 and I still can’t talk about it), to signing days, media days, spring games, bowl games, bowl bans, broken ribs, concussions and severe sanctions, we have seen it all, and we know more is coming.
This concept of ‘fine tuning’ is what draws me most to the game. It’s not just about the win, but the opportunity to witness humility and graciousness. Losses are miserable, yet it has been after some of the most devastating upsets, that I have admired athletes most. Those miserable post games, when players would saunter out of the locker room full of red eyes, poise and pride, then kiss and thank everyone in their families that came to the game to see them play.
Football parents come in varying forms and I’m sure you’ve seen them all. There are those who coach, push, prod, and pressure their kids. There are those who coddle, those who keep score and those who get a little star struck and turn their kid into a career.
Here is a fact. If your child is playing D-1 football, it’s a pretty good bet he wants to play on Sundays. It’s a rare bird that doesn’t. As a parent, it is not your job to develop an NFL Prospect; it’s your job to develop the character of an NFL Prospect.
At the 2013 Rookie symposium, Irving Fryar shared this profound statement: “YOUR TALENT MAY TAKE YOU WHERE YOUR CHARACTER CAN’T KEEP YOU.”
As parents, we have to be held accountable when it comes to character. As a football mom or football dad, it’s not our job to prepare our son for the game, it’s his. It isn’t our place to critique his performance, it’s his coaches. It is our job to nurture his humility, to keep him grounded and respectful, to make sure he is honest, kind and unselfish, to applaud perseverance, to be nonjudgmental when the world judges, to redirect him when he falters, to believe in him when others don’t and to build a relationship that doesn’t come with a playbook.
In our family, football may consume our time, but there are other things that connect us. If you look back at all of our post-game texts, you will see a steady flow of Eddie Vedder lyrics, Bible verses, poetry and quotes. When my son Michael got injured in his rookie debut, his first correspondence was a passage from Hemmingway’s collection of stories, Men at War. His brother responded with James 2-4.
Yes. Football may leave us all stronger in the broken places. But, at the end of the day, that just may be its greatest gift.
NFL Player Engagement contributing writer, Cynthia Zordich, is the wife of Michael Zordich (former NFL safety/coach), the mother of Michael Zordich, ( FB, PSU/Carolina Panthers), Alex Zordich, (QB, University at Buffalo) and Aidan Zordich, (Penn State).