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.