"Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life."
- Mark Twain
I have been to my share of kids' sport games. I've watch from the sidelines, coached from the coach's box, and been a referee on the field. When my boys were young, everything they and their teammates did was, well, cute. The parents, coaches, and referees could not help but smile each time a player broke a rule. Then everything changed.
Now, my boys are older. Coaches stay on the field and call plays so advanced that the NFL should be taking notes. They yell and scream at each other, the kids, and the referees. They take a great deal of pride in a win and pass blame for a loss. Each game ends with the required high five, but no one really means "good job" when they say it.
The season has also changed. It seems to be one long scouting session for the coveted All-star teams. Those that have the talent are groomed not only by the coaches but by their private trainers as well. The other kids are there to provide support for the selected few. They are the ones who block, pass, and are out there in sunny left field. The ball seems to somehow land in the hands of the prodigies more times then the others. These kids get more time on the field or court, while the other children watch from the sidelines especially during the last 5 minutes of the game. How sad that this distinction among the kids begins as early as age 10!
Of course, there have been some spectacular moments and unforgettable events. Friends have been made and kept, and we fondly remember the few adults who have gone out of their way to teach, praise, and inspire. These memories, in a highly competitive sports environment, are especially sweet.
These are the memories that present us with the golden opportunities to celebrate our children and the sports they play. We need to praise the teamwork and forget the criticism, replay those specific moments of effort, erase the moments of defeat, and most of all, thank those who truly "coach" our children to the next level of skill and sportsmanship. After all, we have a responsibility beyond writing a check and bringing water bottles and oranges.
So where do we go from here? It would be easy to give up but then what are we teaching our kids? So we have to push ourselves. Push ourselves to congratulate the child who made most of the points for team. Push ourselves to point out the ones who block, pass, and are out there in sunny left field. Push ourselves to thank the coach even if we did not agree with his coaching. Push ourselves to thank our kids for just being a part of a team and cheering during the last few minutes of playing even when they are on the sidelines. And, push ourselves to let go of the game after it is over because our kids already have.
This year, I'll be there again on the field, court, and rink with an extra large sports drink and a bag of chips.