Tabitha Wells mother of No. 8 Sophomore Tanner Wells. Tanner plays tight end and defensive end for the Knox Central Panther football team. Tanner has played organized football for the past 12 years.
Bobbie Robinson mother of No. 25 Junior Frankie Robinson. Frankie plays wide receiver and defensive back for the Knox Central Panthers. Frankie has played football since kindergarten.
Deborah Ballard mother of No. 33 Sophomore Andrew Johnson. Andrew plays running back and defensive back for Knox Central. Wade “Andrew-Ray” Johnson has played fooball since he was in the first grade.
Advocate: How did your son start playing football?
Bobbie: Frankie began playing football for the Knox County K-2 program when he was in kindergarten.
Tabitha: Tanner comes from a long line of football players. His dad and grandfather both played college football. It’s in his blood. He started playing in the Knox County Jr. Football league when he was five. His dad, Brent, actually coached a Knox County 7th/8th grade team called the “Vikings” before the Jr. Football league was established. Tanner was two at the time and he played football on the sidelines while watching his dad coach.
Deborah: How did he start? He started as a very skinny quick young boy, who quickly moved right into the starting line up. He has never really been a sideline kid, he has mostly been a starter. He is very naturally talented when it comes to athletics.
Advocate: Does both parents look at football the same?
Bobbie: My husband, Frank and I have the same views when it comes to football or any activity our children are involved in, give 110% and do the activities you love. We are blessed because we all love football!
Tabitha: No. My husband loves the game. He studies it, interprets it and makes sure Tanner is well prepared and has the equipment he needs. I make sure he has warm clothes for cold games, and pictures that he can keep and look back on when he’s older.
We are both very supportive of anything Tanner chooses to do. Tanner has a very supportive family. My parents come early and set up to tailgate. They’re the first ones to get there and the last ones to leave. My sister’s always have his back. Brent’s parents travel from West Virginia to see the majority of his games, even when he played in the Jr. Football League. Brent’s sister and brother love to watch Tanner play and have made the trip from West Virginia several times.
We both understand that football is an aggressive game. However, we don’t tolerate anything illegal or unnecessary to Tanner or any other player on the team. We are a football family. These are Tanner’s football brothers.
Deborah: I was the parent who was the most hesitant, but now im the Loudest, Proudest momma in the stands. I’m very supportive as far as working for the team whether that is a concession, helping at camp or doing fundraisers. Im in! It takes more than just showing up for the games to clothe and feed them! Our 12th man club is a wonderful blessing to these boys and as a football parent if you are not a part of this you have missed a wonderful opportunity to help a child. As many parents, I can provide for mine. There are some who don’t have the support they need and that is why I do it.
I am totally and completely over protective of Andrew and I would be on the field in a heartbeat if he is hurt or on the side line. I have also learned that with football there is going to be some bumps and bangs. As long as he wants to play, Ill be in the stands.
Advocate: How does the outcome of the game affect your family?
Bobbie: Winning and losing affects our family big time!! When he wins it is a celebration and when he loses, well let’s just say, we all need space for a few minutes to get over it then we are ready to rehash every play.
Tabitha: Winning is fun. Losing, not so much. If you give it your best effort, leave everything on the field and play with heart, that’s all you can do. We celebrate the wins and try to learn from the losses.
Deborah: We always have a “discussion” about the game and talk over the mistakes and the good things as well. We are always sad with a loss but also happy with a win. Our main goal is to make Andrew aware that he is part of a team and he has a responsibility and as long as he did the best that he knows in his heart he can, then win or lose, he has done the right thing.
My friends say they always know when we are winning because my facebook is being blown up with score updates and plays!
Advocate: During football season, how does your social life change?
Bobbie: Social life?? That’s funny!! My kids and their activities are about all the social time I need.
Frankie s social life during football consists of Sunday church and watching film at home, Monday practice, Tuesday practice, Wednesday is wing Wednesday after practice, Thursday is Madden Thursday at the Owens home where Sherry Owens feeds the boys and Jenna Owens makes desserts.
Tabitha: Everyone knows where we will be on Friday nights. We get to enjoy being social with our football friends and family! Tanner knows that Friday night is game day. I don’t think he would have it any other way. Outside of fooball season, Friday is usually spent hanging out with friends.
Deborah: What social life…Im a football mom. The hardest part is I have 2 grand daughters both born in Sept, one this year and it limits the fall activities we can do on Friday nights and most Saturdays, Drew likes to sleep in and rest. My one wish this year is that my daughter wouldn’t go into labor during a football game
Andrews social life is limited as well, by the time they practice daily, get home for supper and homework, hes pretty much ready to go to bed. And on the weekends he just wants to rest.
Advocate: What is your game day routine?
Tabitha: I usually wake up nervous and anxious. I dress in my game day clothes for work. My husband and I usually help serve or feed the team their pre-game meal. We both enjoy that. We get to give them some words of encouragement. We get to see how they encourage one another. They always pray before their meal. We hear 64 “thank you’s” as we serve the food. That impresses us. Afterwards, I go home to get my food for our tail gate party. We come early to set up and eat some yummy food prepared by our faithful Panther supporters. We have a good time visiting and socializing. Friday nights are a late night for us.
Deborah:Highschool ball is a lot different since they stay after school and feed them and let them rest together. After work I go home and fix my camera bag and get ready and my hubby packs the car and makes us a thermos of coffee and hot chocolate to take to the games. We usually always eat out on game nights, its just quicker that way.
Advocate: What advice would you give a young mom who’s son is just starting out in football?
Bobbie: If your son wants to play football I encourage a young mother to let her son. Playing football with the Panthers has taught my son more than just football. Football has taught him to be a leader, teamwork, discipline and dedication not only to himself but his team and a brotherhood that will last a life time.
Tabitha: Seek advice from someone who knows the game. I’ve said stupid things about situations I honestly knew nothing about. The more I learn about the game, the more I understand it. The more I understand it, the more I get to enjoy conversations about it with my son. My best advice… Remember they are all someone’s son. – Your son, your friend’s son, your opponent’s son. In the heat of competition that’s easy to forget.
Deborah: Play hard, be a team player, never feel like you can not be replaced. In other words there is always going to be someone better or quicker, but give it your all and be the best you can be. We all make mistakes and you will have good games and bad, just don’t get down on yourself or your team mates when that happens.
Advocate: If you could go back in time, would you do it all again?
Bobbie: If I could go back in time and start all over I would not change one thing. Being a ‘Football Mom’ is one of the greatest titles I’ve ever carried and I’ll be sad when Frankie graduates.
Tabitha: I consider myself a “girly girl.” I didn’t play sports. I didn’t understand the obsession with sports. One day, I was walking past the TV and caught a glimpse of an interview with Cooper Manning. He was speaking of his experience playing football and being part of a football family. They asked the question, “What is the hardest part of not being able to play football?” He began to sob. Tears were running down his face. I began to sob. I had never seen a man be so deeply invested in something. He replied, “Not being part of a team. I miss my team.” It was at that point I finally understood. I wouldn’t change anything. Tanner loves it. And, if he loves it, I love it.
Deborah: Yes I think that football builds more character, sportsmanship, team work and skills than a lot of academics ever could. I think its wonderful to be a part of a team!