The Washington Post

At Bethesda-Chevy Chase, a football parent goes into volunteer duty

Elizabeth Petty, the mother of Bethesda-Chevy Chase football player Nolan Petty, returns the yard markers and to the equipment storage area after a game last week. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

This will be Elizabeth Petty’s last high school football season. Bethesda-Chevy Chase lineman Nolan Petty, the youngest of her four children, will graduate next spring and with that her years as a parent volunteer will come to an end.

Before any of her children entered high school, Petty was a seasoned volunteer at her children’s sporting events. The summer swim teams, travel soccer clubs and peewee football leagues that her two daughters and two sons were involved in all relied on parents. “Sometimes we were the only ones organizing things,” Petty said.

The transition to high school sports proved things were no different. “You can’t have a game without the volunteers,” Petty said. Football parents help in every aspect of the game — printing programs, feeding players before the game, running the scoreboard. “I suppose you could have a game without an announcer — also a volunteer,” Petty joked. “But it sure would be boring.”

“That’s one of the things that is so exciting about B-CC football,” Petty said. “The families have been determined to help build this program. It does take a village to raise a team of young men.” A family has to be all in if their son plays football, according to Petty. The hours are long, the boys need help balancing their time and finishing schoolwork, and transportation can be an issue. And that is before any of the team obligations. “It’s a big family commitment,” she said.

When volunteer positions are assigned, Petty is one of the first to volunteer for the “chain gang,” moving the first-down marker up and down the field as the line of scrimmage moves. “It’s a highly coveted job, but it’s not for everyone,” Petty said with a laugh.

Petty spends the game at the beck and call of the referees, moving only when told to and often having to run the length of the field. Barons touchdowns can’t be celebrated in the same way as if Petty were sitting in the stands. It is all worth it to her. “The kids put so much into this and I know they can’t play without a chain gang. I do it to honor their effort and the effort of the coaches.”

As the Barons gathered near the scoreboard for photos after their season-opening win over Churchill, Petty returned the chains to the equipment shed and gathered with others near the school door. The parent volunteers had become simply parents as they waited to congratulate their sons.

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