This is our fifth year of organized football. The first year our oldest son Alex showed up to play, the head coach’s eyeballs nearly popped out of his head. That’s because Alex is and always has been one of the biggest kids his age.
Since he started playing, he’s been a red-striper, which means that he weighs too much to carry the ball or be on the field for kick offs. Kids who can’t carry the ball are identified by a red and white stripe on their helmet. Each team also has an absolute maximum weight, and if you are over that at the start of the season, you miss the first game of the season and can try weighing in two weeks later. Or you need to move up to the next age group.
Alex and his younger brother play in the same age group, Alex on the D1 (competitive “varsity” team), and his brother on the D2 (instructional “JV” team). This year, Alex weighed about 12 pounds over the maximum weight for his age group and we knew he would have to drop the pounds to stay with his friends. Weigh-ins were August 16 and once baseball finished in mid-July, we started focusing on getting him down to weight.
We knew that football practice would help with weight loss. Practices start the last week of July and are Mondays – Thursdays from 6pm – 8pm, with occasional Saturdays. Hot, humid evenings would ensure that the weight would roll off, given how much he would be sweating in all that gear.
Except that Mother Nature has blessed us with a very mild, low humidity summer. The one year we need to get Alex to drop weight, and the old gal gives us mild temperatures and almost negligible humidity. Bitch.
Alex and another player who needed to drop a few pounds to make weight began running at the end of practice. While that helped some, with less than 1 week until weigh ins, Alex still had about 5 pounds to lose.
Thus began the week of torture. A growing, 5′ 4″ 12 year old boy who has to cut his calorie intake and increase his already active lifestyle? So. Not. Fun.
The week kicked off in marvelous style — dinner out with my in-laws. Bread was delivered to the table and Alex immediately reached for a piece. “Alex, you can’t have any bread,” my husband informed him. Alex responded with a scowl and eye roll. My husband spat back, “hey, it’s not me who has to the lose the weight, so drop the attitude.” Cue a teary-eyed, 12 year-old mess before we’d even placed our orders for entrees.
For breakfasts, he only had a small bowl of oatmeal.
For lunches, he only took a sandwich and applesauce to camp each day.
After practices, he ran extra wind sprints and laps around the field.
For dinners, he only ate an egg sandwich.
After dinners, he and his dad would go to the Y and work out for another hour and a half, with Alex in sweats to help generate more heat/sweat/weight loss.
He only drank water for every meal.
By Thursday of that week, he came home from the Y, laid on the couch next to me and put his head in my lap. “I’m so tired, mom.” I rubbed his sweaty head and reassured him, “it will all be worth it when you make the weight, Alex.”
On the morning of weigh-ins, Alex and his dad got up super early and went to the Y for one last workout. They came back home to pick up our youngest son, and then headed off for the weigh-ins.
I was waiting at home for news. Alex called me on my husband’s phone and yelled into the phone, “I made it, mom!” He explained that he was the last kid on his team to come out of the room, and his team was anxiously awaiting news. He stuck his arm up in the air in triumph, and his team cheered for him.
We celebrated with a big pancake breakfast at a local diner. Suck it, diet.
The following Saturday, his team played their first game. The team they played against wasn’t nearly as talented. By rule in our league, if a D1 team is ahead by a certain number of points, you need to put in your substitute players. Alex and the rest of the starters were subbed out so that the backup players and kids from the D2 team who had stayed around could play. The D2 players pretty much played the second half. I think our son Nick (whose team had won their game earlier in the day) ended up with more playing time in the game than Alex.
During the game, I could tell by Alex’s body language that he was not happy about it. All that hard work to qualify to play, only to have another rule of the game prevent him from playing as many minutes as he felt he had worked so hard to earn.
When we got home, we talked a bit about his lack of playing time. He told me he was disappointed, but that he understood the rule. “Yeah, it sucked,” he explained. “But, I know I’ve earned my playing time. I’ll get plenty of time when we play against teams that are closer competitors. It was good that the subs got time today.”
And having him come to that realization on his own was definitely worth the weight.