We Held A Mouth Guard Convention And A Football Game Broke Out
Today was Opening Day for the Youth Football Winter Season. I, having spent the day with many parents who are newly involved in youth football, feel it is my duty to provide some clarification.
There is a common misconception among those new to youth football that one’s son or daughter is here to play football.
I know you think that’s why your son or daughter wanted to sign up. You think that’s why you mortgaged your house to purchase the latest in space-age -technology-incorporating cleats. You think that’s why you had to drag yourself and then your child out of bed at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning, the only day you had even a remote chance of getting to sleep in on.
But, youth football is not about football. Accept that now and your life will be ever so much more harmonious.
Youth football is about one thing and one thing only.
The mouth guard. It’s all about the mouth guard.
The next 12 weeks of your life will revolve around that often slimy, frequently grass-covered, ever needed mouth guard. Occasional short obsessions with eye black will occur periodically, particularly in the minutes before game time, but the true focus of the season will remain the mouth guard.
Former players have various memories of playing youth football, ranging from heartfelt reminiscence to outrage at unresolved conflict. But, mention “mouth guard” to any former player and you’ll always get the same reaction: their eyes gloss over as they look off lovingly into the distance remembering what was their fondest friend.
The roots of this important relationship begin embedding themselves before the first practice. Perhaps you noticed your child’s reverence and wonder as he stood before the mouth guard display at the sporting goods store even before he had chosen his new amalgam amigo.
And, undoubtedly, your child insisted on the purchase of a mouth guard case. You probably bought the expensive shatter resistant antibacterial carbon polymer case, impressed that your child wanted to keep his mouth guard hygienic. He didn’t. He just wanted a fine house for his new friend. But, don‘t worry about the expense. The case will still be in mint condition at the end of the season because he will never, ever put the mouth guard into it again after the first practice.
Once his new friend has been purchased, your child will never want to be separated from his plastic pal. He will wear it to church, to birthday parties, in his school pictures. He will never want to be without his darling dental device. He’ll even try to eat dinner with it in.
Come Wednesday evening as you and your child arrive at the football fields for what you thought was his team’s football practice you will rapidly realize that you are not attending a football practice so much as you are attending a mouth guard fashion show.
The players strut will about taking every opportunity to show off their colorful teeth protectors. They toss their heads and smile widely. They hang the guardian of their parents’ dental copay half out of their mouth as they march across the field and turn rapidly to change direction. It’s like Project Runway except there is more drool leaking out and the models gnosh on cookies and Gatorade at the end.
Like any skilled partner in a relationship your child’s mouth guard will play hard to get. It will choose to be aloof to the point of invisibility at times to remind your child of its importance at key moments in his or her life, such as five minutes before practice starts, or in the car on the way to an out of town game. Many will be the times when tears are shed over the again missing mouth guard. Sometimes your child will cry, too.
Mouth guard relationships are further deepened during games, where the stress of battle forges an ever deeper bond between your tyke and his or her Guardian of the Pearly Whites. Players on the sidelines chew so vigorously on their mouth guards that one wonders if they will in fact ingest them completely prior to halftime. Players in the game grind their teeth against their plastic protector in an effort to further process the details of the active play prior to the hiking of the ball.
Dashing over to the bench for a quick Gatorade break, your child will lovingly toss his mouth guard onto the turf, carefully keeping it away from its case in order to maintain the case’s pristine condition. His mouth guard will be “carefully” kicked out of the way or stepped on during the rush for snacks between quarters. Then, it’ll be popped back into your child’s mouth as time starts again for the next quarter, after your child sterilizes it by blowing briefly on it. Someday this skill will come in handy for sterilizing their children’s pacifiers.
Whatever you do, don’t pick up your child’s mouth guard, even when you see it on the ground, coated in a combination of grass clippings, dog hair, and what you can only hope is mud. If you do he’ll look at you in disgust and say, “Ewww! Don’t touch it! I put that in my mouth. I don’t want your fingers on it. That would be gross!”
Yeah, that would be gross.
Laugh Out Loud!
What magical piece of extracurricular equipment disappears at your house? Shoot me a comment. I’m looking forward to hearing all about it.