He chose football.
I should've known that this was going to be insane since the practices are at 5:15 p.m. on Thursdays on the other side of town.
After a brief period of research, I committed via email to a team for which one of John's friends played last year. Within 10 minutes, I got an email response that said, "Please call me. --Coach." I called him back and endured what can only be described as "vetting." I'm still not sure if he was vetting me as a parent or my kid, the actual player, but several times the phrase "touchy feely parents" was used (by him) in a derogatory sense.
I passed the test by simply saying, "I'm from Mississippi and so of course grew up under the impression that, for boys, nothing is more important than sports -- especially football."
My kid really wants to play flag football -- what's a mom to do except put on the ritz?
I thought we were totally in, but then tonight, I received the email copied below, which I feel compelled to repost here because it is essentially a five-paragraph essay intended to dissuade the weak from fully committing to the team. We are not weak.
I have added commentary.
Great talking with you earlier. (English teachers would call this a "hook".)
Just to be sure we are on the same page, I want to share some things about how we coach our team. (English teachers call this background information essential to preparing the reader for the content of the essay.)
Pls let me know you are ok with this. (The ever important thesis statement, which can be translated as this: You're either in or out based on your responses to each of these major points.)
Commitment level: I understand that Kindergarten/1st grade flag football (John is going into 2nd grade, so clearly this is copied/pasted from last year's team vetting email) is not priority number one for your family. However, we do expect your son to be at practices and games - on time. Skipping a game to go to a birthday party is not okay. (What if it's your great grandfather who is turning 100?) Missing a game to go to a wedding is understandable. (What if the bride is your mom's high school friend or long-lost cousin, whom you have never met and whom your mom really doesn't even talk to anymore but she has been asked to be a bridesmaid and is too cheap to hire a sitter, so she's dragging you to the wedding? What if everyone knows that the marriage isn't going to last?) If you have to miss a practice or game, please let me know in advance. We also expect your son to pay attention and not be a distraction to other kids. (Good luck with that, sucker!) Football is difficult because every position requires a different set of skills and knowledge. (This is extremely different from other team sports such as baseball and soccer, where everyone is just going after the ball willy-nilly.) We need to have time to prepare other kids to cover for your son if he is going to miss a game. If time commitment is going to be a problem, let me know now. (No shotgun weddings allowed!) There is still time to move kids to different teams. (translation: When I was a child, my team never won because Billy Rae Jackson was absent SO much (he was forced to attend an inordinate number of weddings because his mama was a bridesmaid), so now I have an unhealthy focus on winning.)
Positions: Although the league wants us to let every kid play every position as the season progresses, we will not do that. (We do not care about the rules; winning is the most important thing.) It is just too difficult to teach every kid how to play every position. (Thank goodness we don't work for the public schools or we wouldn't have jobs.) We will stress that every position is important to the success of the team. I will promise that every player will “start” at at least one position, and that every kid will get to catch or carry the ball at some point during the season. We will have 9 kids on the roster, so several of them will start on both offense and defense. I do not want to have conversations with parents about positions and playing time. (If your kid is slow or has butterfingers, then I'm justified in leaving him on the bench.) If your son wants to play a different position, we’ll be happy to tell him what he needs to work on to prepare himself for that.(We have honed our skills at crushing dreams.) At this age, I don’t believe in sitting kids on the bench,(though I do believe in vetting them and their parents in a two-stage process that includes phone AND email confirmations) so everyone will “own” at least one position (the coach's son "owns" quarterback; the assistant coach's kid "owns" running back; everyone else is a lineman.) Some players may sit when we are on offense or defense, but nobody will sit for both.
Coaching Style: We will stress that youth sports are supposed to be fun. However, we also set our expectations high and expect the players to work hard and pay attention. While we are tough, I assure you that your son will have fun this season. I don’t believe that you have to choose between “fun” and “competitive.” We will do our best to achieve both. (Losers never have as much fun as winners (kind of like brunettes).)
Luckily, there are not any grotesque grammatical errors or spelling mistakes; however, there is the repugnant use of the abbreviation "pls" for "please."
I responded with what I consider to be minimal sarcasm. Here it is:
Thanks for being so specific about your expectations.
We are fine with the time and attention commitment that you expect from us and John. We have worked out a carpool for the weekday practices, which is what I was worried about. I honestly do not think John will have a problem focusing, nor will he be a distraction for others. We have never heard this complaint from any teacher, coach, babysitter, or anyone else who has supervised him. Although I should make the disclaimer that of course we cannot give any sort of guarantee about the behavior of our child -- if I could figure out how to do that, then I imagine I'd be quite wealthy.
Regarding parent-coach conversations, I can guarantee that you will not be hearing from us. My husband is famous for completely separating himself from all coaches & parents at all games and practices (to the point where people ask me why he is so anti-social), and he has a strict rule that he will not try to have discussions with John's coaches. He is a coach himself, so he understands that having a good set of tight-lipped parents is a huge luxury. Moreover, I was raised to be a Southern Lady, and so I will simply whisper vindictively about you to the other mothers, but never to your face.
And finally, we too believe fun is paramount, but honestly -- what is more fun than winning?
If you need us to provide recommendations from other coaches that have worked with John, I can certainly put you in touch with both his soccer and baseball coaches from the past year.
I hope this makes you feel confident in John (and us)! Please let me know what registration fees we owe and when the first practice will be held so that I can put it into all three of my calendars.