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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Full Suburban: High school football offers life lessons off the field, too

George Ditto stands in front of the Central Valley High School football field on a relatively warm night.  (Courtesy of Julia Ditto)
George Ditto stands in front of the Central Valley High School football field on a relatively warm night. (Courtesy of Julia Ditto)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

My son’s high school football season finally started last week – yes, that’s right, in February. COVID-19 has wrapped its annoying little spindle fingers over every part of this weirdest-of-all school years, and school sports were caught up just like everything else.

The team had an online football camp in the summer and then were waiting and waiting for COVID-19 restrictions to ease up enough so they could start practicing and play some games.

Finally, we received an email a few weeks ago informing us that it was time to register George for football and that practices would take place every weekday from 2:45-5:30 p.m. for the next two months.

Excuse me, what? Over the past year, I’ve gotten used to those hours being chore time, piano practice time, entertaining-your-little-brothers time and telling-funny-jokes-that-make-your-mom-laugh time.

It kind of breaks my mama heart to start relinquishing my kids again to the hamster wheel that, yes, gives them lots of fun things to do that they love, but also takes them away from our home.

And although I am beyond ready for life to get back to a little more normal, I’m still afraid that, once things start to ramp back up, everyone will try to make up for lost time, and we’ll be caught in even more of a rat race than we were before.

Football was set to begin on a Monday – President’s Day – which was also the day of the big snowstorm that hit our region. It seemed so unfair that, after months of little to no snowfall, we would get hit on the very day these boys were finally going to be able to play football.

I thought practice might be canceled, but after months of hoping and working for a football season to finally begin, the coaching staff was undeterred.

Instead of starting out practice with drills and conditioning, the head coach asked all the boys to bring a snow shovel from home and meet on the football field at 3 o’clock sharp.

About 90 boys worked together to shovel the entire field until it was completely cleared off, after which they still had regular practice until it was almost dark.

When I picked up George afterward, he climbed into the warm car and sat there, shivering. “You can take your face mask off now,” I reminded him as we pulled out of the parking lot.

“Yeah, I know,” he said. “I just don’t think I can get my fingers to do it yet.” He finally managed to hook one frozen finger over the elastic strap of his mask and pulled it off.

I felt a swell of pride when I saw that huge football field completely clear of snow and all these teenage boys milling around who had just completed such a monumental task.

Boys whose lives have been on hold for an entire year, boys who have been stuck inside, kept away from friends, and watched academic and sporting opportunities evaporate before their eyes.

To see them finally unleashed and able to do something they love – and to see them so willing to do whatever it took to get it done – was a testament to me of how we’ve grown over this past year.

I hope that we’ll remember how badly we wanted to be able to do things, how badly we wanted to be able to be together, how badly we wanted to move our bodies and play games and enjoy living life outside our little bubble.

I hope we won’t go back to staring at our phones and holing up inside when we could be out experiencing the world that we’ve been kept from for so long.

As chagrined as I am to drive George to and from school for practices every day during the busiest part of our afternoon, I can’t help but feel grateful for his dedicated coaches who are being so completely hardcore about their football program.

They have worked hard and jumped through countless hoops to provide this experience for these boys, and the boys are better for it.

To the dedicated football players and coaches of Central Valley High School: Thank you for teaching me a lesson about working hard to do something you love. Your perseverance has been noted. Well done.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at

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