Tag Archives: coaches

It’s a Heart Condition

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I have a relatively high aptitude for imperfection. It’s no secret that I have fumbled my way through life and managed to mess up things on a pretty routine basis. Based on my predisposition for blunders, one would think I would have a high tolerance for others acting a fool. Most of the time this is completely true; I have a high tolerance and understanding for the human condition. This weekend was not one of those times.

Nothing brings out the ridiculousness in people like youth sporting events. It’s like a convention for short-sighted delusional parents. The dads of the quick-handed 8 year olds or the off-the-growth-chart-early 12 year olds are compulsively barking from the bleachers to their obviously superior genetic offspring. The same DNA patriarchs can often be found red-faced and berating the inexcusable effort of a well-intentioned aspiring athlete. And the moms…they can be categorized into a few different groups:
1. The Maniac Mom-yells at the ref, the coach, her kid, other kids and parents. Usually she has poor grammar and is wearing ill-fitted yoga pants.
2. The Hoity-Toity Mom- Well groomed and manicured with expensive handbags and shoes. She will quickly tell you how great her child is, how much exclusive training he/she has had, and will eventually crack like an egg and yell unabashedly in frustration if the momentum shift too far in the other direction.
3. The Annoyingly Celebratory Mom-They travel in packs. They have matching team gear and loudly credit one another on the respective child’s performance: OMG, Gladys. Ashley’s shooting just like she did in that game against the Lions! That camp you sent her to is paying off—or— Beverly, what have you been feeding that boy, he has gotten every rebound. Annoyingly Celebratory Moms continue to scream and cheer, even when their team is decidedly better and up by 20 points.

Sadly, this seems to be the norm; the status quo of youth sports in these United States of America. There is an epidemic of perspective lost. I saw a Facebook post last week about a parent screaming at a 14 year old line judge at a volleyball flagtournament. Three weeks ago, my son stood up for one of my husband’s players when a coach from the other team was screaming at her and the opposing team’s parents in the stands turned into a spider monkey posse against my son. Note: My son’s response escalated into the realm of inappropriateness, at which point I was accused of being a $hitty parent by group of vigilante strangers. Evidently, losing makes them CRANKY. Two weeks ago, my husband had to call the police at the tournament our club was hosting because an unruly parent refused to leave after being ejected by the referee. Someone hand me my red flag, it’s time to wave it.

This weekend was a tough one. His team played and lost to the cranky team with a band of misguided parents backing them. After the game, one of our players was on the phone talking to her dad and was overheard saying, “We played bad. We just lost to a team we usually beat by thirty.” One of the Moms from the other team stopped and snidely said, “Yeah….but you didn’t beat them today.” Like an idiot, I piped up and said, “Way to be classy, lady,” and just as the words rolled off my tongue, I saw a little girl playing near is. She was probably seven, her eyes were bright and her smile wide. She reminded me of a place I had been and more importantly, of the person I want to be. I turned and walked outside.

Her name was Annette. I met her in a village on the outskirts of Kampala in Uganda. She was small, beautiful, and smart. She was also hungry. She was hungry for food, but she was also hungry for affection. I was fortunate to be able to annette2give her both. For an entire day, she wrapped herself in all the love and attention I could give her. She slept on my lap and I kept the flies off of her face and traced the creamy softness of her skin in the heat. I met and loved on so many children during my short time in Africa, but this one left a mark on the tender flesh of my heart. Seeing that little girl at the basketball game who so resembled Annette, caused a knot to form in my throat and a lurch of regret in my heart.

I was reminded how easy it is to lose perspective and to get sucked into the craziness of the world around me. Flexible is something I strive to be, pliable is something I resist being. I don’t think it is ironic that a poor bright-eyed child from a village 8000 miles away is helping meannette3 to strive to be a better person. I think it is powerfully purposeful. It’s a shameful part of my character that I would need to be reminded at all.

Perhaps, this post is nothing more of than an expose of my judgmental spirit. After all, it isn’t nice to generalize people at youth sporting events into categories. The truth is, there are many times when I could easily be grouped in with the ridiculous people. Sometimes it’s difficult to see when I am in the midst of the madness. It is much easier to see when the truth is reflected in the memory of the face of a hungry child. Today I remembered what is important. It isn’t about the score or which kid is bigger faster or better. It’s about being human and teaching kids the values you want them to have both on and off the court. Reaching down to help a fallen opponent is every bit as significant as reaching out to a hungry child in a village on the other side of the world.

As adults, we set the tone. We lead with our attitudes, good or bad. At times, I am annette1guilty of joining in the frenzied actions of the ridiculous people, but I am learning. For today, I listened to my heart. It’s a heart condition, of sorts. Isn’t that’s what it’s called when your heart doesn’t work the way it used to?

Consider this Can of Worms Open

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acanofwormsThere 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.

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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.

Sophi having a rough meet at Championships

Sophi having a rough meet at Championships

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.