Monday, October 06, 2008

Forgive me, Mr. Tolle

It's easy to forget that Jackson is only eight years old, given his height and maturity. He has a tendency to give up too soon on new things. He simply loses interest. There's no communication for the most part. Under questioning, he tends to allow for anything I suggest as the cause, leading me to think that he either doesn't know or doesn't want to talk about it. A couple months back I finally got to the bottom of it.

I'm not sure if I posted about this, but I pulled him from our local soccer program and myself from coaching and participating in board activities. Jackson didn't want to play anymore either, so that made the decision final. If he had wanted to play I would have tolerated the cock and bull. I asked him if he wanted to try flag football instead. He said no. And here we went again. Always no to something new.

"What is it about football that you don't like?"

"I don't know."

I had to be careful here. For some reason I really want him to play football and I have to do the Eckhardt Tolle self-test. Why is it so important to me? He recently quit his guitar lessons (Beth, you knew this was coming!) and I let him off the hook. Music should be fun, not a chore. I haven't given up; I'm just considering a new angle. But here is a sport that is, for the time being, non-contact that involves a lot of running—one of Jackson's favorite things in life. So I tried this:

"You love playing tag with your friends at recess, right?"


"Flag football is just organized tag. The guy with the ball is It."

He still looked dubious. I pressed on.

"What is it that you don't like about it?"

He seemed to struggle for a moment, but then pushed out the golden nugget. "I don't know how to play. It's confusing."

So there it is; he's just like me.

Long story short, he agreed to play with my assurances that the game is easy to understand once you have played, and that I would make sure he understood. Turns out I went one better when the league coordinator told me they needed a coach.

So I'm baaack in the saddle again.

We won our first game and got slaughtered in our second, but in the latter case we learned a fair clip about defense. Jackson ran a touchdown on his first touch in the first game, but in our second game, we were pretty much shut out because the team we played had played together to two previous seasons, and was all reverses and fakes—their QB (the coach's son) had a beautiful fake pass that turned into a handoff to his runningback waiting behind him. My boys were totally confused until I put my two fastest kids on either end of the field and told them not to move until they were sure the ball was going the other way. After that, we shut them out. The damage was already done, but we left a better team.

Jackson told me afterwards that it wasn't as fun anymore. I thought about telling him about how it's not winning but in how you played the game, but that is the age old cop-out. Instead I said, "It wasn't your fault or the fault of any of your teammates that we lost today. That was all on the coach for not having you ready to play. We'll work on a few things this week and you'll see what a difference it will make."

So yesterday we won by three touchdowns, but it could have been a whole lot worse. In our previous game, the kids couldn't snap the ball quick enough and didn't know the plays. Our defensive issues I've described. This week I created three plays that always start the same way, so that the center, quarterback and running back either go right or left. Easy. Nothing to remember. The only differences are these: in the first case, the running back runs the ball; the second, the running back gives the ball to the wide receiver for a reverse; and in the third, the running back fakes the reverse and passes the ball. Then we practiced ad nauseum the snap and handoff to the running back.

The difference was remarkable.

The highlights of the game were amazing. Almost every player had a touchdown. Jackson's came on defense. Twice he picked the ball in front of the receiver and ran it back for a touchdown. We even had one of our kids throw a touchdown pass that was so pretty you wouldn't have believed two kids were involved. The pass was a spiral that hit the other kid in stride.

Jackson told me after the game that on one of his picks he duped the quarterback by letting his guy go so that he appeared to be wide open.

I think he's starting to get it.

After the game, one of the boys from last week's team, the aforementioned QB and coaches son, had a birthday party, so all the kids gathered and played even more football. I was on the sideline. Jackson lined up as a runningback and a kid on the other team said, "If Jackson gets that football we're dead!" He did get the football, and it was the prettiest run I've ever seen him do. In the first game we played, he ran around the corner and just sprinted away from everyone. On this day he looked more like Adrian Peterson or Barry Sanders, planting and switching directions three times while ever pressing forward with defenders grabbing at the ghost images he left behind. He's long and lean, and by far the fastest kid in the league.

Are you sensing a little pride?

You'll have to forgive me, Mr. Tolle, but my head is swelling.


Beth said...

Well, I'm a football fan and also had a football player in my family for one season and then part of a season. My son ended up hating it. =/

I knew about guitar, yes, but what I've learned after raising two kids to now teenage years is you can't force your children to love anything. Children will do things to make you happy, but be miserable as a result. Not a good end game, imo.

I hope your son loves football as much as you do, but if he doesn't, the world will still turn. Those moments of pride are wonderful though, aren't they? You can't help but let the ego go wild!

You ought to get some of this on tape and show us! I for one would absolutely love to see it.

Scott said...

That's a great idea, Beth! I'm kicking myself that I don't have any tape right now. Being the coach is a bit distracting, and my wife isn't always at the games. I'll bring the camera and have a parent do the taping.

I agree about the world still turning. I was disappointed that he didn't have any enthusiasm for the guitar, but I've decided to plug in my electric and effects and see if loud amplification appeals to him. Electric is much easier than acoustic anyway, and Jackson loves rock and roll. We have Rock Band on the Wii and he's a really good singer.

Alan said...

Hey, I'm still waiting for the vid of your own strummations!

A tall Dad makes for a tall Son!

Your pride brought a smile to my face. Go on and enjoy these boys of yours Mr. Ellis. It's a damn beautiful thing.

And your canny coaching abilities don't sound too shabby neither! :-)

Scott said...

Alan, I'm still working on the strummations. I wanted a recording device for my birthday but it proved too rich for our current financial situation. Besides, I remember I just had to have a vocal harmonizer a couple years back and when I finally got it I used it once or twice. It's really cool though. It will come in handy with the kids.

On coaching, the real test comes this weekend when we play the exact same team that just pounded us. Because of them we have better defense, and I create the plays that I mentioned in the post to provide some misdirection. When we played we could only run left and right and really couldn't snap the ball well. I'm nervous and excited.

Toni Anderson said...

My son is similar. Hates trying new stuff. His sister is the opposite. Sometimes you have to show them what it is all about and see if they want to try it--glad that is working out for you Scott. :)

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Scott...what a hoot of a post! I enjoyed this so much. It brought back memories of Little League, Tae Kwon Do, Dance, saxophone, clarinet, Japanese sword, volleyball, soccer, acting, art classes...etc.

When I read this...
"So there it is; he's just like me."
- I laughed right out loud!

Here's to fatherhood! And forget Tolle. A proud papa is a wonderful thing to behold! Good luck next weekend. :)

Scott said...

Toni - It's a fine line to walk for sure. It's such a rush when they actually like something that you made them do.

KL - Nice to see you, and I'm so glad you finally started a blog. I'm with you: I don't feel bad at all about being a proud papa. That's the reward for all the work we do as parents.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

If he starts faltering, just stand behind him with a shotgun full of buckshot.


Beth said...

Oh, I play instruments, but I LOVE to sing. Love it.

And I can't WAIT to see tape of the games. That would be just too cool, Scott! Twist your wife's arm. =)

Jada's Gigi said...

I think most first borns think they should already know everything so if they have to actually learn something then its not fun...:( I know, I'm one of them and I really don't like new situations..I'm just sure I should already know it all...sounds like you got him through on this one and now he can relax and enjoy.