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Kye's Football Season

Friday, December 29, 2017

I started dating Zach during our freshman year in college. That year Zach was a "redshirt freshman" meaning he hadn't started his football 4 years yet. I was able to be part of his entire college football experience and I'm so, so thankful. The memories on the sidelines are ones I always look back on with a smile. He had an incredible college career. Two National Championships (the first being the first ever National Championship for our school). And even the #1 play of the day on Sportscenter (his one handed catch helped lead the team into the 2nd National Championship win our senior year). He lived and breathed football. Saying "he loved it" doesn't even come close to describing his passion for the sport.

We live in a "small town." Not just any small town, but a football small town. Actually, our little town of Valdosta, Georgia is ESPN's official Titletown. Football reigns supreme around here and when you play for both the local high school and local college it's a legacy that always sticks. People still, 10 years now after Zach's last football game in his career, talk to Zach about his "glory days" on the field. When his football career came to an end it was tough for him. Not only because he loved the sport so, so much but because it truly was so much of who HE was. Not just something he enjoyed doing, but truly the person he was at his core. Seeing him having to put that passion aside and try to find new avenues to pursue in order to fill the void football left was tough to watch. He enjoys other sports: basketball, golf. And he loves his job and our family time. But nothing can truly fulfill him in the way that football did.

Even before Kye was born having a son was something I thought a lot about. I knew being a Parker came with a lot of weight and responsibility. Not only because we are a family of such honorable, respectable, men of God but also because Parkers are sports people. And his daddy? Well he's a football guy in a football town.

I am so thankful that Zach and I were (and still are) 100% on the same page regarding all of our children and sports. People naturally assumed from day 1 that Zach's son would be on a football field as soon as he could walk, but that wasn't the case. Zach has experienced success with football. He doesn't need to try to achieve it through his son. It's his passion. His talent. But he has ALWAYS said his only hope for his children is that they find THEIR passion. THEIR talent. And that doesn't mean it will be the same as his.

For me I didn't want my son to feel pressure. I didn't want people looking at him with expectations. Seeing his Daddy's shoes and expecting him to fill them. I also didn't want my son to experience that same void that Zach has without football in his life. My hope was that if/when Kye decided to pursue sports that he'd find that passion in a lifelong sport...like golf or tennis or something that he can enjoy playing forever rather than just for a limited amount of time.

We have never, ever pushed sports on our children. Naturally they are around Zach and his family (I'm not gonna lie...they don't get ANY sports exposure from me haha) and that means sports are part of their lives. Kids tend to show interest in the things they are exposed to and we've always encouraged our children to pursue all avenues of interest. When it comes to Kye he's had the most exposure to golf. It's something Zach loves to play with his dad on a regular basis so Kye has played from a young age as a bonding time for them together. He's had some experience at various golf camps and competitions and has some real natural talent for the sport. He's also tried out tennis as he showed interest there and he's done a few football camps in the summer as well.

Last school year Kye expressed interest in football and playing for a team. It was already past football season so we told him he could play in the fall if he was still interested in doing so. When the time came, he wanted to be signed up. I have always said IF Kye were to ever want to play football that his 3rd grade year would be the perfect time. Tackle starts at 2nd grade but it's combo 2nd and 3rd grade together on the same teams. I liked the idea of him being in the older grouping of the teams for his first experience at getting hit and hitting others on the field.

Around here many kids start playing sports as toddlers so I knew going in that Kye would be a good bit behind in his abilities than other kids on his team. He was always the littlest when he did the football camps and some of those kids were pretty dang hardcore!

We decided to have him join the league that is tied in with the school system. I liked that he'd play among kids at school and that I'd heard it was our least "commitment" option. It's INSANE to me (and Zach agrees) how much they have these little kids playing. Ours was supposedly the most "slack" and we still had practice or games almost every day of the week except Sun and Wed! It is TOO MUCH y'all.

Zach only played football one year of elementary school and then didn't play again until middle school. He said he only remembers one game a week max and maybe like a practice thrown in there too. I don't get why 8 year olds need 12 games in a 6 week span of time and a bazillion practices too.

To put is simply, it's too much of a commitment for a family to have to make. I joked a lot but in all honesty I truly enjoyed watching Kye play. I enjoyed cheering him on in the stands. But unfortunately the amount of strain and sacrifice it put on our family outweighed my personal enjoyment of it. If it had been one or two nights/mornings a week I would have been ALL IN. Britt's gymnastics is ONE NIGHT a week. We make sacrifices as a family to make sure she can be there but it's for only one night so it doesn't affect our family on a large scale. This football season was a strain for me in a big way and really sucked a lot of my joy in my parenting because we were constantly on the go. Meals in the car. No downtime after school to just relax and enjoy each other. No family dinners. No games before bed. No talk time when I tucked the kids in. SO many late, late nights where the kids (Kye very much included) were straight up exhausted.  I was very, very thankful we didn't yet have a baby in our arms because we literally couldn't have made it all work if we did!

I will also add that if football was Kye's passion. If he loved it the way that Zach does. Then the sacrifices wouldn't seem as great as they were. When Zach played, my life revolved around his football schedule. And it was well worth it because his love and drive and deep inner passion for the sport were so contagious. Football was life and we lived it to the fullest! But it didn't take long for us to be able to tell that football isn't Kye's passion. Britt lives and breathes gymnastics. She's doing cartwheels every where we go. She is super pumped every Wednesday when it's time to go and she'd stay longer if we let her. She LOVES it. Growing up Zach would sleep with a football. He'd toss it up in the air constantly. Our nephew, Colt, is football obsessed. But Kye? He said he enjoyed it. He said it's his favorite sport. But there was no fire or real passion for it. We had a game rescheduled due to weather and he was GLAD because it meant a chill night at home. I truly believe that the go-go-go was overshadowing his ability to enjoy the sport too. He was SO tired all the time and it took a toll. I wish there was a league option that was less intense as I think it would be so much better for younger kids and would allow kids like Kye to develop that deeper love for the sport rather than being pushed away from it due to it consuming their lives.

I am very thankful for the timing of Kye's readiness to explore football! It really couldn't have been better because all of the kids are at the most flexible ages we've ever had without having a new baby to have to revolve around. Even though it was a lot on our family, even the schedule of his games worked out where we didn't have many conflicts with other things we had planned as a family. I am a big believer in supporting each other and finding that balance between keeping the kids on their set routines and being there to cheer on their brother was tricky at times. We got a sitter a few times to sit with the girls while they slept during some of the later games (Some started at 7:45 yall. 7:45! And were a good 20 min from home!).

For the most part though we ALL tried to be at every game! Zach would take Kye whenever he was able to the practices but when he was working late or out of town we'd all load up and be there for practice too. I know many people said Zach and I should just trade off for the games, but I can't fathom sitting at home and missing seeing my baby boy on the field! One of my goals as a mom is to always be there to support my children in all of their interests through life. I love being at field trips, in the crowd at their school performances, and now on the sidelines of their sporting events. I always want them to know I'm there and I'm cheering them on!

I decided to combine ALL of Kye's football season into one long post so here we go:

They had so many kids sign up that they had to do two teams so they had a "try out" sort of thing where they divided the kids up by ability. Zach took Kye and he did great!



SO GROWN! My mama heart just wasn't ready!


First practice!


Tessie made friends right away! The two of them looked like twins :) 


A lack of communication was probably the biggest frustration for us with the whole football thing. We didn't know a football schedule until right before the games actually started and that was frustrating. Many times the practices were announced day of and very last minute. It's easier to plan around something when you know about it! Zach and I were SHOCKED at the AMOUNT of games as well as the times of them and the locations. Some of the schools where we played were pretty far from our house and so many of the games were super late and the late ones were scheduled so close together. It just seemed like poor planning really! 

Yup. 12 games, not even counting playoffs!


Kye really enjoyed the drills at practice...he loved racing!





Got his number and it just so happens it's Aunt Karen's lucky number 5 :) 


Fitting that helmet 


Practicing blocking



Kye's first game was at the local high school stadium which was a pretty big deal as it was truly like a passing of the torch from father to son. So neat that Kye got to play on the same field his daddy did back in high school! Sometimes living in Valdosta isn't my favorite but moments like these make me SO glad we live where we do! And how fitting that one decade after the end of Zach's football career was the start of Kye's :) 







Fan Club! I swear Brad isn't anti social haha 

It was SO sweet to have so many supporters for Kye's first game!


Kye wanted to play defense but was assigned offensive line. Which is probably the most "boring" position for a kid to play because all he did was block, block, block. But he was probably among the least experienced players on his team so we told him that as he learned more he could earn his way to different positions throughout the season. Zach's big advice to him was to ALWAYS be right by the coach. To always be listening, always be ready and to ALWAYS hustle. Kye did just that and he did it consistently throughout the season. It made us so proud! 

That first game though I think his strategy of always being by the coach worked against him. At that point the coach didn't know any of the players so he'd see Kye first and pull him out of the game rather than do full rotations to let everyone play. I will say that was the most Kye sat on the sidelines the whole season. 






Right by the coach ;)





SO hard to know which player he is out there haha


Britt and Tess made signs to cheer for Kye! 


Wherever Coach was, Kye was too




Kye also is always the first kid to be in position. He was ALWAYS down and ready way in advance of the actual play haha It did help me locate him ;) 






We didn't even score the first game (or first several). It's common for the city school teams to basically murder the county school teams so we weren't surprised although it was a blow to the kids on the team. Kye did great being fearless and holding his blocks, even up against such bigger kids!

Waiting


Football wears her OUT


Kye wanted to take a post-game bubble bath to relax ;)


Football allowed the girls to have many new experiences...Tess found a beer can during a practice which was interesting and Britt had her first portapotty experience. One you never really forget haha!










I love how well my girls play with others, it made football times so much easier that they had little friends to run and play with!



Kye quickly went from only playing part of the game and only playing offensive line to going in for both offense and defense! 



Great block against a BIG DUDE


Cheering on brother :) 












Always ready ha!



The night before we left for Hawaii we dropped the girls off at Mrs Charlotte's then had a "date night" watching Kye play. It was his first time playing at the same stadium where all those awesome college memories took place! To me, seeing Kye play on this field was more special than Zach's high school field because it's where I cheered him on! 








Bless him. He was very tough with taking the hard hits!







The torch has been passed! Love this!


OF COURSE while we were in Hawaii his team not only scores for the first time, but they WIN, AND Kye got the offensive player of the game!!!! I cried real tears that we missed it BUT I reminded myself that he had lots of people cheering him on and that it's okay that we weren't there. He was SO pumped!!!


His sweet friend, Grayson, got the defensive belt!



The day we got back we were exhausted with jet lag but weren't about to miss another game! 


We got a sitter for the girls so we could handle the late night!





My way of managing practices and games quickly became a routine and I got into a pretty good grove with it. I'd pack the kids dinner for the car (often it was like a granola bar, grapes, a cheese stick and raisins...I know...so healthy and well balanced) and then would have the girls watch movies in the car while Kye practiced prior to the game (yes, we had to be there usually at least 45 min early for the games to warm up) or even during his full practice. This allowed them to have chill time and to save up their patience for the actual game so I could watch without them driving me nuts :)




One night game Zach almost didn't make it due to work but I'm SO THANKFUL he did because Kye won the game belt again but this time for defensive player! It was a huge honor for Kye because it's a position he truly worked towards and earned! We were so proud! Plus we WON!






This is what our lives became during the season haha


I will say my favorite field was Georgia Christian. It was the furthest from our house but it just felt the most "football" to me! 


Plus. The snacks. 


Another win and this time Big Papa and GMama were there with us!



This probably won't surprise anyone but I do NOT understand this whole game snack thing. WHY do they need a snack?!?! And it's so silly because it's like "great game guys here's some JUNK FOOD." It makes no sense to me?!?! But I didn't want to ruffle any feathers so I totally signed up to bring a snack too. 


Our last game of the season was THE BEST. It was truly an awesome game and a great win. It was an exciting game and a fun one to watch. You could really see the boys get better and better as the season progressed!







Not only was that last game just a FUN one...it was also a super special one because KYE GOT THE BALL! At the end of the game I was packing everything up and happened to glance up and saw that he had it. I about died. I'm shocked he couldn't hear me yelling I was like "That's my baby! He's got the ball! Go Kye Go!" Totally "that mom" making a fool of myself. But it was SO EXCITING!!!! He went for 15 yards on his first (and only) carry of the season!!!



They had a single elimination playoffs. Kye's team made it to the lower round of the playoffs and they ended up losing that first game pretty badly. I really wish they hadn't done the playoffs at all. Our last regular season game was SO AWESOME and would have been the PERFECT note to end on. I'm not all about this whole "everyone is a winner" mentality. We LOST the FIRST round of the LOW BRACKET playoffs and still we were considered some sort of champion? It made no sense at all. Let the kids just play a regular season and if they earn the playoffs, great. If not then that's okay too. Keep it to ONE playoff...not some higher tier lower tier thing. I hated that his season ended on such a low note (we had a couple touchdowns called back). 

It was SO COLD!





For this game they had to wear maroon jerseys and Kye was number 21. 


Great block!




The awards and trophy presentation after the game. 







I am SO proud of Kye during this season. He truly worked hard, learned a lot and earned his spot. By the end of the season he was never on the bench and played both offense and defense. He was also given the most improved player from his coach. His coaches ALWAYS stopped us to tell us how well mannered he is, what a great listener he is, and what wonderful heart he has. That's ALL we could ever ask for and we're just so proud of him and his character! 



One of the things I always dreaded about my kids playing sports were the other moms. You know the "hardcore sports moms." I had expected there to be bragging and boasting and yelling at coaches and refs and basically super competitive mamas. But that wasn't the case AT ALL. I hit the "football mom" jackpot. I already knew Sarah and knew Tiffany through social media a bit but got to know them both so much better and on a deeper level and instantly fell in love with LeAnn too! The four of us had a blast on the sidelines and it's like God put them in my life at just the right time. I was dealing with a LOT while in the phase of waiting on Tab's arrival and they were all so supportive and sweet and lifted us in prayer when we needed it most. If Kye does play football again I doubt I'll ever get this lucky to have this crew with me in the stands! I'm hopeful we can continue our friendships beyond football too ;)




Post-season the team got together at our local pizza place for trophies. The kids got medals at the last game and trophies. Plus Kye got to keep that belt for MIP too! 




Overall we had a fabulous first season of football. We had great coaches and great friends. Kye had an amazing experience of learning the ropes of the sport and earning his spot by the end of the season. He made us SO proud and stayed committed through the end. My issues and negative vibes were never related to the actual sport (I'm actually not one of those moms who worry about kids getting hurt...I know they could but I already went through all of those concerns when watching Zach and he never got a serious injury so I guess I just feel less worried because of that?) nor were they to Kye wanting to play it. I had my issues with the organization of it and the level of competitiveness at such a young age. Overall though we made some wonderful memories as a family cheering him on! I'm not sure what the future holds for Kye with football but if he decides again in the future that he'd like to play, then we will keep cheering him on then too :) As his parents our hope and wish is for him to find something he truly loves and his passionate about. If it's football, or golf, or an instrument, or inventing apps...we just love him and are proud of him no matter what!

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