There are times when certain things get stuck in my craw and I can’t manage to cough them up or swallow them down and so it becomes a festering burn. The school basketball season is winding down and we are on the cusp of the traveling season. A great deal of my time these past few months has been devoted to spectating youth basketball games and the next few months will comprise much of the same. I love the game, I love the kids playing the game, but I despise some of the crap that comes out of the mouths of others.
I haven’t always resisted the urge to tell someone to sit down and shut the hell up (sometimes things bypass my craw altogether), but I have been working on tempering my kneejerk reactions to the ridiculousness of others. Admittedly, I have engaged in verbal sparring with psycho parents from opposing teams. Thus, I am, by all accounts from some opposing teams, a psycho parent. I have made great strides in this department and am learning to be as docile as a kitten. What I have witnessed recently, though, isn’t from the opponent’s sixth man. The negative shots are being taken at our own team, by our fans (insert heavy sigh here).
Nobody hates to lose more than I do. I had my Old Maid cards shredded by my parents for marking them when I was just four years old. I have learned a lot since I was four. I still have a lot to learn, but I know these things to be true:
- I am not the one playing. My child is. I need to let her play (run, foul, lose, win….)
- I am not the coach. Let him/her do the job. I wouldn’t want him/her to show up at my workplace and scream at me about what a shitty job I am doing.
- I can see when my kid screws up. I can see when other kids screw up. I wouldn’t find it gratifying or necessary to verbally announce a botched play by another player. I don’t need other spectators to recap her blunders either.
- I am not raising a professional athlete. I am raising a child. It’s a game. It would be short-sighted for me to view it any other way.
- Encouragement cannot be an afterthought. It must be at the center of everything I project from the stands. Yelling, “Oh, my God, Sophi. Get your head in the game!” cannot be cancelled out by a follow-up attempt at a platitude.
- Coaches and referees are not perfect. They screw up. We all do. If there is a coach who is unfair or incompetent (and there are coaches who are both), it is an issue that won’t be resolved from yelling the obvious from the stands. Just like athletes, coaches will earn the respect he/she deserves. The cream will rise to the top.
- My child needs to get direction from the coach during competition. If a player is looking in the stands for direction during a game, the cohesiveness of the team is being compromised. I can help her fine tune her fundamentals in the driveway.
When Sophi was little, she placed third in the Elk’s Hoop Shoot contest. She got a little trophy that I placed on her dresser. A few weeks later, I found it buried in the bottom of her closet. I asked why it was shoved in her closet. She looked at me and said, “Because it was last place.” There were only three girls in the contest.
Kids know the score.
As my child grows up, she will win and she will lose. She will love and she will have her heart broken. She will have disappointment and elation. She will know success and she will know failure. She will probably be betrayed by someone she trusts and she may learn to trust someone she thought she couldn’t. There will be those along her path who genuinely want to assist her in attaining success and there will be others who do not see her a worthy investment of time or effort. I pray that she sees the value of cultivating the talents and strengths of others and always knows at the end of the day that encouraging one another in word and deed is the mark of a true champion. I hope as the seasons of her life pass, when she sees me on the sidelines, she will know that no matter what the scoreboard says, I will always be her biggest fan.