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Cindy Hval: Grid clinic for moms an eye-opener

If Hank Williams Jr. were to have asked me if I was “ready for some football” last Thursday, my answer would have been, “I’m trying.” After all, I’m not ready for many things at 7 a.m. But last week at that early hour, I sat fully clothed if not fully conscious, at a desk at Mt. Spokane High School.

Each week Coach Mike McLaughlin hosts a meeting for mothers of football players – no dads allowed. The purpose of the meeting is to explain the basics of the game to those who might be unfamiliar with it, and to ensure information is distributed. Evidently, McLaughlin has learned that teenage boys can be unreliable communicators.

As to the moms-only rule, I’m wondering if the coach has also discovered that if dads are invited, the meeting might devolve into debating calls, plays or the intellectual capacity of the coaching staff. But I’m just guessing.

So, on Thursday, six of us brave mothers clutched our coffee cups and tried to appear wakeful. (Well, I was shooting for conscious.) It might have been the artificial alertness inspired by my triple latte – or perhaps the open notebook I’d laid on the desk. But when McLaughlin instructed us to introduce ourselves and identify our sons by number and position, he pointed to me and said, “You first.”

Who knew there’d be a test on the first day? I gulped. For a moment my name eluded me. Good thing I’d written it on my notebook cover. “I’m Cindy, my son is Alex. He’s number 21 and he’s a kicker.”

The other moms followed suit. I think we all passed. When one of the ladies mentioned hesitantly, that her son played OL/LB (that’s offensive line/linebacker for you novices), the coach nodded, “That’s right, he’s a stud.”

Well. Now, I happen to think MY son is somewhat of a hunk too. Perhaps noticing a quizzical look on my face the coach amended, “stud linebacker.” Evidently, I wasn’t the only one who appeared confused. Moving to the whiteboard McLaughlin drew some Xs and Os. “See,” he said. “Here’s where the stud lines up. Over here you have Mike and Mack.”

Oh dear. I’d listened carefully, as the mom’s introduced their sons. I’d even studied the team roster the night before. I’m positive there isn’t a Mike or a Mack on the team. “Will is over here,” the coach continued. Who are these kids? I wondered. Why aren’t their names on the roster?

As McLaughlin drew more x’s and o’s I began to realize that for some reason, those names identified the positions players took on the field and weren’t necessarily the names they’d been given at birth. I also realized a triple latte wasn’t going to cut it. “Football terminology is simple,” McLaughlin said. Yeah, right. That’s what my college professor said about algebra terminology. I’ve got a grade transcript that proves him wrong.

He then discussed plays with names like “Crash and Burn,” “Lion and Tiger,” and “Double Dagger.” I shuddered. It all sounded dangerous. And I wasn’t reassured when McLaughlin prefaced the footage of the Wildcats’ opening game with this disclaimer: “Not one got hurt.”

We then watched game highlights with the coach’s narration. He pointed out a missed block. “See? He’s supposed to hug this guy.” I’m so glad to know the coach encourages displays of affection on the field.

I was briefly bewildered when McLaughlin mentioned a “quick pitch.” But he didn’t fool me. I know that pitching is for baseball and horseshoes. However, I didn’t correct him in front of the other moms. No one likes a know-it-all.

By the end of the hour my knowledge of the game had expanded, though I still can’t tell Mike from Mack. But I do know this – football is magical. It has turned my 17-year-old junk food-loving son into a vitamin-popping, soda pop-eschewing, nutrition-conscious health advocate.

That same baggy-jeans, T-shirt-clad boy now wears his team polo shirt tucked into his pants and actually wears a belt (on game days anyway). Now, that’s what I call a stud.

Contact correspondent Cindy Hval at Previous columns are available online at columnists.
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