I believe it’s been previously mentioned that my youngest two children are quite heavily involved in sports. If I haven’t mentioned that, well, they are. My 13 year old plays hockey, flag football, and school volleyball. Once upon a time he also played Little League and tackle football but has since given those up. My 10 year old plays hockey, football (tackle and flag), and baseball.
They love sports.
They are also fairly athletic which could almost be considered a miracle given how extremely un-athletic I am but their dad was an athlete in his day and they were fortunate enough to inherit his genes when it comes to their ability to throw a ball, run, and do anything more than read a book or walk in a straight line.
While not athletic, I am a touch on the competitive side. I like winning and being right; neither of these things bring out the best in me from time to time but it’s all part and parcel of my overall charm!
Our boys are a combination of the two of us in so many ways but athleticism coupled with a competitive nature has served them well. I love watching them play all sports, cheering them on, and from time to time may even get a tad carried away.
That’s where it ends for me: My sons, athletic as they may be are not going to be career athletes. They are not going to the NHL, NFL, MLB, or otherwise. Maybe if they continue to work really hard they’ll play a little beyond high school and maybe they won’t. I have one son who is extremely hard working, driven, and dedicated but a little on the small side. He works hard though – I can’t stress that enough. He is also very smart. What he lacks in size he makes up for his understanding of whatever sport he is playing. My other son is big for his age, is also hard working, and is one of the best teammates you’ll ever meet. Does he have the same drive as his big brother? Not as of yet but I’m fine with that. One of my favourite parts of watching him play any sport is the encouragement he gives his teammates and the leadership he often provides when it comes to morale. He’s only 10, so don’t get me wrong, sometimes he loses his shit and has a tantrum. I’m 40 and do the same, so I can’t really fault him that.
What I hope these children of mine get from playing sports are life skills and I believe they are getting just that. They are learning about commitment. You join a team, you go to practice even when you don’t feel like it, you go to your games even if you’re on a 138 game losing streak. You show up, plain and simple. This is important because as adults I think we’ve all worked with or volunteered with people who missed this lesson in life and don’t consistently show up, physically and/or sometimes, mentally. They are also learning about hard work. The harder you work and the more effort you put into something, as a rule, the better player/person you will become. They are learning all kinds of things about interacting with others; respect, authority, conflicting personalities and how to deal. You don’t always get along with your teammates or coach. This is important for obvious reasons (I hate to break it to you if are fortunate enough to have never encountered such a situation, but sometimes as employed adults we do not get along with our co-workers or bosses but we have to make it work because we like eating food and living indoors). They are also making friendships that I hope and suspect may last them a lifetime.
Finally, most of the time and most importantly they are having fun. They are 10 and 13. Life lessons aside, at this age sports should be about fun! If they don’t love it, we’re not doing it. I will never force my child to play a sport they don’t enjoy. I may force them to listen to Fleetwood Mac from time to time but that’s obviously for their own good.
Recreation is a fun word too, isn’t it? That’s what these minor level sports leagues are – recreation. These are not professional athletes. I cannot stress this enough but I’m reminded on an almost weekly, if not daily basis, this is lost sight of almost erryday by errybody.
I have often joked about my reluctance to engage in small talk with people because of who I am as a person but when it comes to the ball diamond, the rink, the football field, or whatever, part of that reluctance stems from 7+ years of bullshit on one level or another. People taking things far more seriously than they need to be. People certain that if they spend enough, manipulate enough, and make the most noise, then Jr. will get what (s)he needs. Jr. will never hear the word “no”. Jr. will not learn what it means to not make a team and instead of collapsing inward, using it as motivation to work harder, to set new goals, and to not give up. As it is with most things, these people are the exception to the rule. We have made so many great friends through our kids activities and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
Season after season, year after year, team after team, I am left feeling with a bitter taste in my mouth. I am left wishing my kids were maybe happy just playing school sports and then I feel guilty for thinking that way because it’s not their fault that people are asshats. It’s not their fault that what they’re doing out for enjoyment and an honest to God love of the game, is turned into something more for people who clearly need to find a little more enjoyment in their own lives that does revolve around the athletic ‘careers’ of children.
What I want for my sons? Is for the time spent playing these sports to be remembered as fun and nothing more. Not the epitome of their success as a human being. Not the highlight of their lives. In 20 years time I hope their success is founded in personal contentment; whatever that means to them. Married with children and working a 9 to 5, or footloose and fancy free pursuing a career in hip hop (Rhett also likes to dance and is a large child, so I’m having a little giggle picturing what I’m certain is going to be a rather large man hip hop dancing)! Maybe they’ll still play rec hockey and/or ball. Maybe they’ll be coaches by then. Maybe they won’t have anything to do with it at all.
In the meantime I’ll (meaning Ryan, Ryan does a lot of the schlepping) keep schlepping them back and forth to practices, braving the elements depending on the season, biting my tongue until it bleeds, and thinking of all the well meaning people who tell me how fast this time goes and how they miss the games, the teams, the practices, once their children are grown. I’ll cheer until I’m hoarse, quietly say inappropriate things to them before they go out (my favourite is “You’re a f*cking 10!” courtesy of Beverly Goldberg), and I’ll focus on whether or not their having fun and nothing more.
I am and always will my kids biggest fan – and this goes for all four of my kids and never has and never will have anything to do with how they swing a bat, shoot a puck, receive a pass, or kick a ball.*
*their taste in music will however be taken into consideration…