Yay sportsing! Yay football! Yay Super Bowl!
Chase likes football. He played flag football for three years and really enjoyed it; but he didn’t enjoy getting teased by his peers for it. Apparently flag football isn’t cool. You know what is cool? Spending $1,000+ a year and giving up all of your weekends to play Pop Warner and risk a traumatic injury.
I don’t want my kids – or anybody – to be tackled. I can’t think of many times in life when tackling is necessary.
Our family agreed that when Chase started middle school he could start Pop Warner. We signed him up, paid the dues and cleared our schedules. I sprung for the safest helmet money could buy. The first week was all conditioning and no contact. That was a good week.
Then came the first practice in pads with full contact and it went like this:
Pop Warner Coach: Do you have any experience playing defensive end?
Chase: Yeah, I played it in flag football.
Pop Warner Coach: Don’t ever say that again or I’ll kick you in the nuts. Flag football is fag football.
I didn’t hear the exchange, but I could tell something was wrong as I walked to the car with Chase after practice. He wouldn’t say a word until we were in the car and on our way home; because he’s smart enough to know that when he told me, I might march myself back to the field and say something to the coach.
“Are you (bit my tongue so the eff word wouldn’t escape) kidding me?!” I said.
“I know, right?!” Chase was a little relieved that he had told me — and that I was past the point of turning the car and making my way to the field.
I tried my hardest to use it as a teachable moment. Adults shouldn’t use that language. Playing flag football doesn’t make you gay. No one should say that they are going to kick someone in the nuts. Blah. Blah. Blah.
“I know all of that. I’m straight. I just feel bad because there has to be at least one gay kid on my team and if they heard that they probably feel sad and horrible,” he explained.
My heart melted.
When we got home we filled Matt in and I have to admit that a teensy tiny part of me worried that he would say that it sucks but that’s how it is in football. That was a ridiculous worry; he was more upset than I was.
After we got the kids settled in bed for the night, I called my brother.
“That is horrible! Ugh! That makes me so mad! I knew this was going to happen. I just knew it. When I played Pop Warner, I was bullied and called the worst names because I was the little gay kid whose parents signed him up for tackle football. Chase is too good for football,” he said.
I was ready to spend the evening crafting a strongly worded email to Pop Warner backed by the effects of bullying and homophobia on LGBTQ kids, but Matt wanted to actually talk to the appropriate people about the situation. So, I wrote that email in my head over and over all night, perfecting it, because I can’t let go of words and because I’m better at writing words than talking to people.
He called the head coach who was shocked. Minutes before the next practice Matt brought it up to another parent from the team (and Pop Warner board member) with others in earshot — which always gives me anxiety because where we live there’s usually a good chance that people will brush it off or defend homophobic slurs. But, every other parent who heard was appalled. I wanted to hug them all.
Turns out that along with being homophobic at practice, he was also drunk. He was immediately excused from practice and can no longer coach Pop Warner.
Then, Chase broke his leg and was out for the season. And, I felt guilty. Like the broken leg was somehow the result of me wanting so badly for him to not play tackle football. I had to remind myself that broken legs can happen in any of the footballs: fag, flag, tackle, two-hand touch, powder-puff, etcetera.
Such a powerful message in this! Glad you guys came out of it all right! Drunk at practice. *begin slow clap for the sloppy drunk degenerate* So sorry about the broken leg, though! Ouch! Isn’t that always the way?
While all the comments here are really supportive and thats a good thing, i wonder how many people follow this truly in their own lives? With their own kids? How many activities ate you carting your kids to? So they can be well rounded and competitive in today’s culture. Mind, I’m not criticicizing. It is way yo easy to get caught up in the mindset going on. Surrounded by your peers on the benches and afraid to make that personal stand when you see it going on. All to easy. Been there done that. In my first year of coaching i laid out my vision. I saw first derision on many of the parents faces as well as some looking at me like i was an alien. Remember. This was now at least 20 years ago. One of my kid’s parents was a big corporation CEO and chairman of the board. Not a lightweight. I think he wanted to know if i would stick to what i said. My final word was that if they wanted to change teams based on my philosophy of learning and fun that was fine. I understood. But if they think they can do a better job of coaching then please come forward as i would gladly hand over the reigns to them. I was also fortunate but didn’t know it at the time to have as my assistant coach a former catcher for the Detroit Tigers as well as a parent who was a retired pitcher from the Brewers.
Did i sometimes get caught up in the process and lose my way? Of course i did. Its natural to when you have passion. But i also had great professionals behind me to bring me back to reality. My teamstayed together for 4 years as the kids moved up past where i was capable of getting then any farther if they wanted to stay with that game.
My sole point here is that understand rstand what YOU want and what your kids want and be consistent with both dreams. Some kids have the desire and the innate talent to want that push from a really competitive and traditionally stereotypical coach. Dont berate the coach in those cases but work just to make sure the coaching is betterment for your child. And sometimes it does take verbal flogging to bring out that passion and drive to be a bit better than anyone else out there. If that’s your kid or yourself you’re not doing them any favors by holding that experience back from them. They’re smarter than you’d think. Theyll figure out what motivates them and what doesn’t work.
Sorry this was so long. I just think we sometimes forget how different and special we all are.
I’m so glad that coach was stopped before he could hurt anyone else physically and/aor emotionally. If anybody gets kicked in the nuts it should be him.
Unfortunately, one bad coach can ruin a kid’s budding interest in a sport. Many of us, looking back on our own childhoods, can recall coaches and teachers who left us with a lack in interest in a given activity, sports or otherwise. Stinks. My 5yo twin girls start flag football again this Spring.
They were enrolled last Spring, but I pulled them out of it after the 1st game, because the coaches (a male and female) were noticeably unprepared to coach (i.e., encourage) kids who were nothing less than “phenoms” like their own 6yo daughter (who, admittedly, was pretty spectacular). My step-daughter played in the same i9 Sports league years ago with the opposite type of coach — one who pulled joy out of the heart of a timid and somewhat unathletic 9yo girl on a flag football team populated mostly by boys. Because of that experience, my step-daughter loves watching football now, even though she never continued with the sport. So yes . . . coaches’ attitudes make all the difference.
What a powerful story! I must say that even though Chase broke his leg, maybe just maybe, God’s purpose for him was using him to get rid of the coach. Don’t allow the enemy in your thought process because God gets the glory. This is the first time I have written that my youngest son is gay, and loves dressing like a female. He hated football. I wanted him to like football just like my older son, but he didn’t. I love him despite all of this. However, your blog is giving me insight and courage. It took me years to accept. My eyes were blinded on purpose. What I have come to understand though is that I love my child, no matter what.
Pingback: The Week’s End // All Sorts of Interesting Stuff – ZEN AND Π
I love your family. You are doing a great job raising them Both your boys are caring and compassionate. Chase is wonderful. He will be a great dad someday.
I’m speechless. But I’m so glad it was handled and that such a vulgar man was dismissed. I’m sorry your boy had to witness such homophobia but luckily he saw the results of such behavior.
Reblogged this on K. L. Romo and commented:
Lori’s second son is gender nonconforming. Her blog gives readers a glimpse of her family’s journey to understand and educate, and to love her son for who he is.
I think Matt did an awesome job in
bringing it up. Great to hear that the
parents were appalled and the higher
ups in Pop Warner took action and
banned this coach. Chase I do hope
your feeling better and thank goodness
legs heal quicker than feelings. Hope all
is going well for you in middle school
Omg he broke his leg! I find this way more upsetting than the awful coach, who I’m glad you got rid of so fast.
But! Leg! And with the CTE reports…maybe the broken leg was for the best. 😦
I just read this latest football post, then saw the link to an older post about CJ being drafted by the Sailors baseball team. Our gay son is 26 years old now. The post about CJ sounded just like our son playing tee ball when he was 5. Even though he wanted to try it, he HATED it. We tried everything to get him to enjoy it: dad coaching, friends on the team, bribery with ice cream; nothing worked. We did find a few sports that he enjoyed: swimming, also running track & cross country. The other kids on the teams & coaches were wonderful. Thank you so much for your book & your blog! I’ve recommended them to many people.
Definitely a teachable moment–but Chase is ahead of the class already. It’s good to hear the Pop Warner organization dealt with it appropriately at the local level!
What a great blog post. It made me angry and hopeful. Thank you for writing what you write.
That’s not a coach. A coach tries to get the best out of his players. Belittling them NEVER does. I coached youth baseball for 7 years and i heard derivatives of that tome. Not so much the gay slurring but the winners at all cost and manly man routines. I never did that to my kids. Some were talented in the making ball players and some were given the opportunity to learn. Learn alot that probably would never be realized. But who cares. We were a team and played together as such and i never allowed my team to bicker within or criticize each other. Ever. Chase gets this early on. He’s going to be a heckuva an adult.
I don’t understand if this event was recent. If so, I hope Chase’s leg heals quickly.
So sorry I didn’t specify. This happened in the late summer/early fall. I waited to post until the Pop Warner season ended. His leg is all better now!
Unfortunately there so many people and organisations that should be addressed with such message
It sounds to me like a mention to the national Pop Warner league needs to be addressed. Apparently they haven’t heard that being LGBTQ is normal. Perhaps they need to send out an anti-homophobe email to address it to ALL regions.
As an openly gay high school soccer coach, I apologize on behalf of all my coaching colleagues. And it’s nice to know the swift reaction from the Pop Warner administrators. THANKS, as always, for shining such a wonderful and important light on so many areas of life.
I weep for the day you stop writing. Yours is like the voice in my own head…except your sassier.
Honestly can that coach be beaten up?