"Just make sure we are back in time for football," my youngest son admonished me. "We can't miss that."
"We should have a day to rest, too, after coming back from the drive. So be sure you put that into the schedule," his older brother added.
Why do they have to "rest," I wondered, when all they do is sit in the car and play video games or watch movies? I'm the one driving.
"There is a football meeting on Sunday, too," they pointed out. "For parents and players. You want to be there for that."
And so, this year, that's how the annual family time with the Illinois-based relatives was scheduled. We squeezed it in after the last lacrosse tournament of the summer — and before football started. We crammed the 19 hours of driving into one very long day (with stops, as a 4-year-old really does need to get out every so often). We planned meals carefully: a visit with former college roommates and their kids included a late lunch ... relatives all came together for a three-hour supper... a favorite high school coach of my own agreed to an early morning breakfast, before I took one son off to a day of job shadowing with my cousin, and the other two kids to the water park to meet with even more relatives ...
All of our planning was done so that they didn't miss any of their precious high school sporting time. The football even had to ride with us to Illinois.
Now, the disembodied shoulder pads await their daily abuse in the mud room entry. The shorts and the jerseys stand at the ready in the laundry room. And the prescribed chocolate milk is constantly in the refrigerator. ("Chocolate milk is scientifically proven to help you recover faster from practice, mom. You should buy two gallons a week.")
Football has taken over.
"We have to BE there at 6:30 in the morning, so that we are not late for the practice that starts at 7," my oldest noted before the first official morning practice. "So we are leaving here at 6." The math didn't add up, I pointed out, as his brother also looked at him in shock. "We have to pick up people, too," he added. "Maybe we'll leave at 5.45." These are pretty strong words from teenagers who prefer to stay in their beds until noon if they can. "We can't be late. Mom, will you please make sure we are up when you get up at 5?"
His brother just nodded in agreement. Then he added, "And then Coach says that we are to stay out of the sun, and to rest. So I'm taking a nap, until the afternoon practice." I look on in amazement: I didn't hear the coach say for them to spend all day just playing football and sleeping or playing video games. When I venture that they could still do something else, like play with their cousin who was staying the week, they repeat their same ideas. "We have to rest, Mom. Double practices are tough."
The Sunday parent and player meeting had set the tone. "The first thing I expect from these players is that every senior go to college, or have a job lined up for after high school," Coach Pacheco said. "You are here to get an education, and that's first priority. Parents, if you see your kids having problems with that, I want to know.
"I want you all to understand that we are a team, and that we will work as a team," he continued. "Football is not an individual sport. We all are going to work together, and work hard." Their heads nodded. "And we're taking each game as they come. If I even hear someone talking about playoffs, the whole team runs sprints." Again the kids' heads bobbed up and down. "We are going to work, and work hard. Everyone is giving their full effort, all the time." The players just kept watching him, hanging onto every word.
"You have to get up in the morning. If that's hard, well, go to bed earlier. Don't stay up all night with the video games. I'm up every day at 5, I will be here. Plan your day, get the rest you need, eat well."
(At this point, the mother sitting next to me said, "Do you think I can stand up and cheer him on?")
"I promise you," he continued, "if we all work together as a team, and we all give our best effort, this will be a successful season."
They have taken him seriously. They are up, they are out, they are practicing, they are reading play books, they are resting, they are eating (somewhat) well.
Hoo-rah. Football has started.
Jill Stahl Tyler is a parent to three children involved in the local schools, at the high school and elementary school levels. She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment and the Brattleboro Town School Board. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.