This is Josh's last year to play for the Vikings. It's hard for me. He's been a part of that program since he was six, with the exception of one year he took off to play fall baseball. That's a long time and a lot of football games with a lot of the same kids and parents. They feel like family. We have eight regular season games and the potential for two post-season playoff games and the Superbowl -- then, it's over.
Today on the way to the Jamboree, I told Josh, "You realize this is your last Jamboree." He replied, "No, it's not, when I play in middle school and high school we'll have them." I replied that it was his last Vikings Jamboree. He seems less concerned about it than I am. Typical boy, I suppose.
We arrived to thunder and some lightning off in the distance and were concerned we might not be able to play. It was as if even the weather sensed the tension between the teams -- the fierce desire to win. The Jamboree features all the teams in the Middle Tennessee Junior Football league, the 6/7/8 year old teams, the 9/10 year old teams and the 11/12 teams. Younger kids play earlier and older kids play later. We were the third from last match-up and were paired up with long time rival White House East.
Jamboree is also the time kiddos who want to handle/run the ball have to "make weight" -- be below a certain weight. This year, it was 130 pounds. Josh is a lineman, so we've never had to worry about making weight, but this year, four kids were really trying to make weight. Three did, one didn't, but he was fine with that because in all honesty, he wants to kick the ball and that doesn't have a weight limit. I was so proud of those guys and the hard work they put in to loose that weight.
After weigh-in, the boys did some warm up exercises and then just hung around waiting for their time. Josh has been fortunate to have some of the same core coaches throughout the entire program, so there is a familiarity to how things are going to go. There is a routine that is comforting -- much like Ellie's blanket is to her when she is tired or scared -- and that, I've realized, will be ending soon. I suppose, having "been there done that" in other areas of my life, I realize what Josh doesn't: that he will never have this same experience in his life again. While he may play football for years and years, it will never be with the same people, with the same awesome, caring coaches, with the same routines and same winning streak that he has been blessed with through the years. This group of kids has played at least sixty-seven regular season games together over the past seven years. In addition to that, they have typically played several pre-season scrimmages, post-season bowl games/tournaments and out of state tournaments. The core group of twelve year olds have likely seen around eighty games together through the years.
Pre-game prayer (yes - we still do that thanks to our wonderful coaches!):
Each year, we drop one or two as they start to play middle school ball, decide to pursue another sport or just burn out, I suppose. But the core is still there -- a lot taller, a lot more mature (in some ways) and with me catching glimpses of the men they will become. I'll admit; it's hard seeing these boys that I've photographed all these years suddenly become teens.
I carry on too much. My friend, K, says it's mid-life crisis we are all going through. Whatever.
The game was two 10-minute halfs and the Vikings did very well. The final score was 12-6 Vikings. There were mistakes, but, no one wants to reveal their entire hand at Jamboree. The win was great, however, coupled with the three pre-season scrimmage wins, at building confidence for the season. The "Revenge Tour 2010" has begun. Josh's head coach, Mike, has deemed this year the "Revenge Tour" because we didn't get a chance at the Superbowl again last year. Our boys won back in 2008 and one more Superbowl win would be the crown jewel for our boys. Yes, I know it's only football; it's just a sport. But these boys work really hard for five months a year and play in heat, rain and cold. It's a sweet victory to see their hard work pay off.
I love this picture for some reason:
I took too many pictures, as usual. Josh HATES to have his picture made now. Gets angry and turns his head or closes his eyes. The year I most want them -- he wants them the least. I'll work harder. One day they will be important to him. If he were really honest and didn't want to appear "weak", he'd say they are now. I know that all these boys can't wait to see their pictures and I see them all over facebook for months and months to come. They are proud of their hard work and I am proud of them and glad to share these photos with them.
Good grief, this kid he was blocking was BIG!
I have a large photo very much like this one hanging in my upstairs hallway. Same stance, some of the same people -- different team, different year, smaller boy. It's interesting to compare the changes in what was a little boy to what is now an almost teen.
Ellie, was GEARED UP for the day, though, and even though she did NOT want her picture taken at first, she loosened up after a while.
Arriving at the park, NOT wanting her picture made:
This is her and McKenna, Coach Hans' oldest girl. Aren't they beautiful??
After the game she was ALL OVER Joshua, wanting to pat his head, sit on his lap and hug him. She is his smallest, biggest fan. This is SUCH a sweet picture of the two of them.
I think she might be trying to wink here:
Post game, hanging out with friends:
We stayed around to watch our friend Braiden play and Ellie and Emily got some play time. Here's Ellie loving on Emily.
After the game, we went with some football friends and had pizza. All in all, it was a great afternoon.