Saturday, May 29, 2010

It's a GAME!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

This is a venting post. I'm warning you right now.

I never played sports as a kid--unless you count badminton, and you probably don't. (Still, I kicked serious tush at badminton.) A lot of girls my age played sports; softball and gymnastics kind of covered it though. Softball never interested me. And although I loved the idea of gymnastics and attended a 6-week summer camp for it, I lacked the upper-body strength for it that, I thought at the time, I would never develop, so why bother?

So I stuck to piano. And I was really good at it. I'm not talking concert pianist or even amazing soloist. I was a great accompanist. I was a great sight-reader. I was a great support to the chorus or choir or musical or trio or whoever needed me. I was great at being in the background and I was completely fine there. I was a team player, even if I didn't play a sport.

My kids are all involved in soccer. They've tried t-ball and baseball and swimming and football and basketball, and soccer just happens to be where they've all ended up, which is fine by me. I love soccer. It's fast and I actually get the rules, so I can follow it. I'm not saying I watch the World Cup or have any clue about professional soccer in general. I'm saying that if I'm going to spend my Saturday mornings watching my kids play a game, I'm glad it's soccer.

Until this morning.

My daughter had a game that my husband couldn't attend because he was rushing two of my sons to their games at the time. So I brought my book and sat on the sidewalk to watch. I'm not a huge cheerleader (another failed sport from junior high for me), but I do holler, "Go, Emma!" when the ball is near her. And that's about as vocal as the parents on her team get.

The other team, however, had some extremely vocal dads--the kind of dads who make soccer moms look timid, the kind of dads who make me want to yank my daughter from the sport before she forgets why she's playing: to have fun.

At one point, the ball came out of bounds and rolled toward me, there on the sidewalk. I stopped it and rolled it back toward the referee (a parent from the opposing team, since the official ref never showed up). A father with his camera snapping throughout the entire game sneered (yes, sneered) down at me and said, "This isn't like a library, you know." Then he went back to snapping photos and yelling at the kids on his team. "You're DOMINATING, today!!" Which they were. The score was 4-0 at that point. Their team had 4 subs to our 1.

A few minutes later, our team scored. One of the other team's dad started clapping then said, "Wait. That wasn't our team. Why am I clapping?" He glanced down at me, and I said, "Uh. Because it's just a game?"

These girls are 7 and 8. They're learning right now whether they love or hate sports, whether they love or hate the game. THE GAME, people!

By all means, cheer your kids on from the sidelines. They need you there. But cheer them on with the right cheers. Cheer them on with the cheers they need for life, not for the 40 minutes they're on the field. Make them love playing, not winning. Because they won't always win. And sometimes they'll need to cheer someone else on. Sometimes someone else needs those cheers more than they do, and they need to have enough confidence to know that's okay.

The game ended 4-3, all three of our team's goals scored in the last quarter while Emma and I yelled from the sideline, "Go! Nice try! Stay int there!" And never once did we tell the girls they were "DOMINATING!" Because scoring is by no means about dominating. And neither is winning.

Playing a sport is about playing on a team. And as a parent, you need to teach your kids that they need all the team members they can get in life, regardless of the jersey they're wearing.

So save your screaming fits and face paint and chest pounding for another game. And I'll just hope I'm nowhere near you in the stadium.


Brigid Kemmerer said...

This is a great post.

Mike coached Jonathan's basketball team when Jonathan was nine. I was pregnant with Nick at the time, so I went to almost every practice and game. Since I'd had a lot of experience coaching teenage girls in horseback riding, and Mike had zero experience coaching students of any age doing anything, I tried to offer team building exercises and insights into what would help his team. Mike cared a great deal, and it showed. He did a good job with those kids.

But Mike was also the new coach in the league. When it came time to pick kids, he got last pick. He got your typical ragtag crew of kids that none of the other coaches wanted.

There was no Cinderella story. Coach Mike with his pregnant wife and gargantuan son (Jonathan stood about a foot taller than the rest of the kids) didn't help lead the team to victory. They lost every game. Every blessed game. Some of the kids weren't committed. Some of them wouldn't show up to half the games. It was depressing.

But the other kids pressed on. Mike pressed on, and he hung in there.

Then, at the last game, the "playoffs" or whatever, the other team was exceptionally competitive. Or, I should say, the dads were. Screaming, yelling, the whole mess. It was shameful.

Mike stuck it out. He rallied the kids.

The final score was 35 - 2. Mike's team lost.

They were fine with it. Mike was fine with it.

Until a dad from the other team came out to the middle of the court and started taking pictures of the scoreboard. And started taunting my husband that he had to record this moment for posterity. Then started ragging on the KIDS. Mocking them. A grown man mocking the eight and nine year old kids of the losing team.

I've never seen my husband ready to punch someone until that day.

Some boys never grow up. I'm glad you're there to teach your kids what's really important.

Mendy said...

You know what's even worse? When it's your dad. My dad coached us for years in tee ball and baseball and he was awful and picked fights with just about everybody. He got kicked out of a lot of games. And yeah, he killed all of the joy of sports for me. That was a long time ago and now we all joke about it and make fun of him. I'm convinced that most people stop maturing in Jr. high and then just stay that way for the rest of their lives. I cannot believe some of the things (outside of sports) that I've heard parents do or say. I thought we were all supposed to grow up.

Mendy said...

I have to clarify that my story is not worse than the previous comment - that was horrible. I read it twice, hoping it would get better the second time. No, it felt worse. And I should also say my dad never mocked kids, he usually embarrassed us by yelling at other parents he thought were out of line, or the ref, bad calls. He was actually pretty good about sticking up for the little guy.

Seriously, he took a picture of the scoreboard? Sheesh.

Bobbie said...

Blogger ate my comment! Blast it.

Brigid, I just gained a whole new respect for Mike for not punching the guy. Un. Believable. It's like a movie scene the director cuts b/c the test audience says, "No way. That stuff doesn't happen." Mike is my new hero.

Mendy, my dad was confrontational about everything *but* sports: religion, politics, the cost of parking at the airport. I felt like I went through my childhood ducking, afraid of what he was going to say next. And you're so right about how most people stop maturing after jr. high! (And I need to figure out if Blogger has a way of notifying people after I've responded to their posts. Probably not, huh?)

Brigid Kemmerer said...

I think the commenter has to check off that they want to be notified of follow-up comments, or they don't know.

Yeah, I have a lot of respect for Mike, too. But, Mandy, I can't imagine it being your own dad!! That's horrible!!!

Brigid Kemmerer said...

Oh wait, I just read Mandy's second comment. At least your dad wasn't being negative. :)

Mendy said...

It doesn't notify me of follow up comments, but now I see at the bottom of this box that I can check to have follow comments sent via gmail. Good to know.

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