Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I like hearing my kids' names announced over public address systems

We've entered the fall sports season, which in my house means a whole lotta soccer and a weekly dose of high school football.

It also means driving hither and yon  though I continue to have no idea where "Yon" is  to various schools and parks, sitting on the sidelines and cheering my offspring on, sometimes to victory, sometimes not.

When you're in the middle of it, it seems like the season will never end. There's always another game on the schedule, sometimes two at once, in which case Terry and I will oftentimes employ a divide-and-conquer strategy.

But then comes late October and suddenly it does end. The air gets colder, the leaves go away, and you realize how fast it really went.

Which is why I'm trying to enjoy every second of the season that has just begun.

It started out in a bit of a rocky fashion this past week for my three middle kids, all of whom injured themselves in their first soccer games of the season. For Melanie it was a broken wrist that resulted in a cast, though she'll be off the field for far less time than we originally thought. For Jack it was an injured toe  a toe he had already injured once or twice before. And for Jared it was a ball to the face that resulted in cuts to his mouth and a momentary loss of consciousness.

Soccer is not for the faint of heart, no matter what anybody tells you.

I love soccer. I coached it for more than a decade, and all five of my children have played it to one degree or another. Our house has been full of shin guards and soccer socks and deflated soccer balls for several years now. I'll be so sad when our time with the sport finally comes to an end.

Honestly, though, it's football that excites me most. As I've chronicled here before, Jared serves as the kicker for my beloved Wickliffe High School Blue Devils. He's entering his third and final season in that role, and his second as the full-time placekicker (as a sophomore he was a kickoff specialist, which honestly isn't something you see a whole lot of on a Division V football team).

As is now common at the high school level, Jared is not a full-time football player. His "day job" is soccer, and he plays that at the varsity level for Wickliffe. But on Friday nights he puts on the shoulder pads and kicks the oblong spheroid.

He's not on the field most of the time, but when he is, he tends to be the center of attention. Not because he's a superstar or anything, but because the kicker figures prominently in special teams play.

As such, Jared's name is announced several times over the course of a game, whether he's setting up for a kickoff or stepping onto the field to attempt an extra point. That's just the way it is. Kickers, even part-timers, get mentioned by the PA guy every time they're in the game.

And I love it. I'm not going to lie to you, I love it. We're only in Week #1 of the 2016 football season, and already I know how much I'm going to miss hearing, "Teeing up the ball for Wickliffe, number 19 Jared Tennant."

Most people in the stands don't even notice it, but I do. Because that's my boy. That's my son. I realize he's only the kicker, and the guys who are out there play after play work far harder than he does. But that's my boy, and there is only this little sliver of time when he's going to play on the same field I played on, and his name is going to be announced for anyone who cares to hear it.

He's a senior now, which means that come November, those days will end. I hear it from parents of former high school running backs and quarterbacks all the time. They dearly miss hearing the PA announcer intone, "<INSERT NAME HERE> the ball carrier."

So I'm trying to enjoy every minute of it that remains. And I'm doing the same in soccer, where I get to hear Jared's and Melanie's names announced all the time, whether they're starting the game or coming in as substitutes. I particularly like how Wickliffe teacher and alumnus Jim Fatica, who announces our girls soccer games, says, "For Wickliffe...Number 7....Melanie Tennant."

Anyway, yeah, I should be telling you how much I love the thrill of competition and the lessons my kids are learning from sports. And I do. But I wouldn't be honest with you if I didn't admit how much I enjoy hearing Jared's name announced for another kick.

By the way, the Blue Devils begin the 2016 football season this Friday, August 26, at home against the Longhorns of Lutheran West High School. Kickoff  potentially off the foot of my 18-year-old  is at 7 p.m. at Wickliffe Memorial Stadium.

Number 19, Jared Tennant, and all of the other seniors on the roster begin their farewell tour. And I don't plan to miss a second of it.

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