Parenting and Sports
Reflection – Sunday
I’m sitting here with a chilled Warsteiner, drinking straight from the bottle thinking about this past week. I’m listening to Mumford & Sons’ Babel.
My eldest went to sleep away ultimate (frisbee) camp this past week. Yup, it was expensive. It was also the only away from home experience for him this summer. Plus, I want to encourage him to remain in sports.
We got a few text messages the first two nights– complaints of how it was not fun, the opposite of what Mom had said it would be, and that it was demoralizing. He wrote he was hating it. My son admitted to feeling troubled over being at the bottom of the heap in terms of skill. I cringe and laugh every time I get blamed for something. How would I possibly know what sleep away ultimate camp is like? From my years of running track and playing on the tennis team at my small town public high school?!
Where I grew up and when I was growing up, most of us played at the rec level. We did not have tryouts. We did not have club. There were a handful of kids whose parents invested in private lessons. There was a country club in our town and a tennis club in the next one over. But a week long camp at a college where he slept in a dorm room? I felt thrilled that we could give him this opportunity.
I sat in the stadium with about twenty other parents. The director had invited us all to come watch on the final day. We compared notes on the communication we had with our kids. We awed over the small liberal arts college campus where the camp was held. We agreed it was an incredible opportunity, there were very few camps offered in the States for this growing youth sport.
And then I said it. The comment that elicited a hush. A back cramp and abrupt stretching from a parent. A cough from another. A downward gaze and shrug from his neighbor. I asked: I wonder how long my son will have a passion for this. We’ve been through a number of interests– baseball, football, soccer. And his brother was the same with soccer and lacrosse. How long is his interest in frisbee going to last?
Apparently, this is a conversation killer, like a fart in the car. To even suggest that your kid will lose interest in a sport is like cutting off the oxygen supply. After a pause, the parents around me resumed their chatter — playing in college, still looking for pick up games, the revised guidelines for middle school teams.
My generation of parents play hard. Parents who scored and placed and ranked in their young adulthood. Parents need their kids to play. It gives us something to do after work and on weekends. It gives shape to a few months. It fosters friendships through car pools to weekly practices and spending the day together at tournaments. Our kids playing sports gives us a reason to play the sport. As in:
Yea, I’m coaching Scott’s team this Fall. We’re a good group this year.
Yea, Mika and I are going snowboarding this weekend. Well, she has an event coming up that we’re preparing for.
Yea, I need to bake brownies tonight. Y’know we have practice tomorrow and I’m the team manager!
It’s fascinating how much we parents live for and live through our kids. The coaches yelled from the field up at us. “Thank you parents! Without you we would not have your wonderful kids here! We worked them hard and we showed them new things. Thank you parents for sending us your amazing children!”
The smugness resounded like the cheering wave rolling across the crowd. I squinted and looked for my son. He had one cleat on, one cleat off. He was rolling his socked foot over a ball. Aren’t you gonna’ play? It’s the final day of a long week and the parents are here with their smart phones. “A muscle strain. I got it Thursday. I gotta’ take it easy. I don’t know if I’ll play today.”
Then why am I here?