When I was in high school I played football. I would say I was not so good at it. I played the line and my entire technique involved hitting whoever happened to be in front of me. I rarely actually knew the play nor understood what was going on around me.
I went to a small church school that had about 300 students and our football coach was also the priest for the school. He tried his best but there was only minor talent and he really had no idea how to coach. So we regularly lost and when I finished high school I never played again.
Which brings me to my son. He attends a church school also. But his school has 2500 students. And a football team that USA Today has ranked #3 in the nation. Their entire coaching staff is ex-NFL, the Varsity is sponsored by Nike and two of their games this season were televised nationally on ESPN. To them football is deadly serious. Last year the entire starting line had a football scholarship to a major college.
They learn techniques that most players never see until college. Where I used to just hit the guy in front of me, they study footwork and leverage points. They understand deeply the technique behind the game at a level that no one on my team ever approached. They also practice 6 days a week and off season their days start with a 6 AM morning workout.
This year my son played JV. For the 5th year in a row they were undefeated. The offensive line averages around 250 lbs. One team refused to play against them because in the prior game 6 of the opposing players had to be carried off the field. During that game I heard on team mom mention to another that "we are going to need more ambulances". And in this highly competitive mix, my son was selected out of 60 kids to move up to Varsity in his sophomore year.
Which brings me to the title of this post. For the first time, one of my children is clearly better at something that I could ever be. Even if he never plays college level he is still a better football player than I ever was. Which is sort of a funny feeling. It is like the time when they finally beat you in a footrace even though you are trying (instead of letting them win).
I find myself un-bothered though. I am fiercely proud of all my kids and very proud of my oldest son. To know that he is better than me actually makes me happy in a strange way.
What I do worry about is if in my pride I am putting an expectation on him that he cannot live up to. At the skill level he is playing at kids are thinking college ball and beyond. There is always the temptation to use performance enhancing drugs to stay ahead. I worry constantly that he will be pushed into something stupid. Especially since at "only"220 lbs (at 15!) he is considered "small" for the position he is playing.
So I encourage him to play while constantly cautioning him against drugs and reassuring him that even if he does not play college he will still have had the experience of playing with people who he will eventually see on TV in the NFL. And that experience alone is worth something! He will always know that he got selected for Varsity as a sophomore and was a success in a very difficult team. I hope that is enough. For me I could not be more proud of him and I don't care if he plays college or not. I just hope he believes me.