Lombardi, Landry ... and Melissa
Surprising some on the gridiron
Last spring, when I helped my son at baseball practice, I think it got more than a few odd looks. As the dads took to the fields, with sons in tow, I was the mom that came out to warm up with Seamus.
It didn’t bother me.
In our family, mom is the sports nut. I played four sports all of my life, rotating seasons. I find I still measure time in terms of football, basketball, hockey and baseball far more than I’d call them spring, summer, winter or fall.
Since it has been engrained in my own life, I wanted to be sure my kids had the same opportunities. My husband’s parents lived in Ireland all of their lives. They came to America to have kids, but weren’t as inclined to introduce American sports.
So, for our house, it is not odd that mom is a sports junkie and dad just isn’t. He’s a fan. He likes to watch, but he could not hit the broad side of a barn with a baseball if his life depended on it. I don’t mind. I like teaching my kids the same activities I love too.
But, there is a big difference between playing catch before a baseball game and coaching an entire team. I’ve coached two seasons of my son’s basketball teams. I started coaching youth sports right out of high school. While I attended Penn State, I volunteered at the Centre County Recreational League to teach 10- to 12-year-olds basketball.
But if I had to pick one sport that I love the most, it would be football.
When my son signed up to play his first season of Pop Warner football this season, I was more than excited. When it turned out that there’d be 28 players vying for only eight positions on the field at a time, the league asked someone else to step up as a second coach, so the teams could be split into two.
I gave the men a week. I think that was more than fair. By that Thursday, I decided it could be me. I love football. I grew up with it. I know more than most dads do about the sport’s ins and outs. Why not? (Oh, and perhaps I’m also failing to note a certain 6-year-old boy in my house begging me daily to be his coach, to “apply for the job.”)
That was seven weeks ago, and it has been a wonderful experience ever since.
It took 15 boys a couple of practices to accept and understand why their coach was a girl. Typically, girls don’t play football, but I am happy to get to show these little men that some can, some do, and many certainly know all about the sport.
Last week, we played Abington, and their team had a girl playing right alongside the boys on the field. I was happy to see that my players were aware that girls are awesome at football. They treated her just like one of the boys, as they do me.
I won’t lie. I’ve gotten more than a few confused looks when I take to the field with my team. Other coaches and parents, on our teams, and others in our league, sometimes are perplexed for a minute, but all have been welcoming and considerate.
It is odd to me that in 2011 there are still a lot of roles out there that the majority don’t expect to see a woman in. But girls are tough. Girls are awesome. Girls can be football coaches.
Sure, I think it is unusual for a boys’ football coach to have a long, red ponytail. It is odd she paints her nails on occasion and sometimes has a 3-year-old, Penn State-clad cheerleader on the bench with her.
But I’m happy to show my guys that girls do know sports. I think it is great they know that, and treat all players, no matter their hair length or sex, the same way!
For more on women coaching youth football, (I, too, was inspired by them), check out what USA Football’s “the Coach Mom Project.” Watch its awesome videos if you are still skeptical.