After watching 300-pound grown men pound each other on the football field on TV for an hour, my 5-year-old and I instinctively run to get our shoes and meet each other in the backyard. It’s half-time on TV, but it’s game time at Chen Field.
Seeing all the raw power and athleticism, and most of all, the acrobatic catches on TV, the boy can’t help but dream that he is the next Calvin Johnson. This past Sunday, boy wonder even caught a 20-yard pass (a perfect spiral, thank you). It thumped him on the chest, and then he thumped his chest while doing his signature butt-shaking touchdown dance (yes, he learns from the best).
Being 5, football is actually a very simple game. Run, catch, run some more. And that’s the way I keep it simple for him at this age. Here’s 5 ways that keep his attention.
1. Play Rugby – he doesn’t know it, but we essentially play rugby – running down the field side by side, and passing it back and forth. He’s learned to throw it where I’m going, not where I am.
2. Keep Score – I don’t know if this is true for all boys, but this boy loves to keep score of all kinds, and stays motivated doing so. 10 points for a hands-only catch, 5 points for all other catches, -1 points for dropped catches.
3. Pick teams – Because he knows the teams now and how good they are, being on the right team adds to his imagination. It’s added fun that he loves the Packers (even though we’re all Bears fans).
4. Third and Long – He loves it when the stakes are high, and I usually save this for the end of our backyard game time. 3rd and long. 7 seconds left in the game and the Packers are losing 27 to 22. All we need is a touchdown…
5. Tackle Time – We then take it inside for what’s essentially a wrestling match. I think there’s an innate instinct of all boys wanting to wrestle their dads, do battle, prove their strength, and (one day) overpower their dad.
Of course, these days, these matches sometimes end with him surrendered on the ground as my footrest. Whatever it takes to get him to see how evil the Packers are. Are you ready for some football?