Sports in general are something I just never have gotten into as a player or a fan. Sure, I tried to play on the school basketball team in 6th grade, but I was on the “B” team, which everyone knew meant that we sucked but the adults wanted to make us feel better by letting us play anyway. They gave us our own team of other non-talented players, but everyone knew it was a pity team. After that, I realized that athleticism was not one of my God given talents.
Watching sports has always been baffling to me as well, and while I’ve had friends who would argue over their favorite teams, I never could bring myself to care about watching grown men throw balls around.
When pregnant with my first child, I remember a seasoned mom telling me that children were born their own independent persons with preferences and personalities that might make no sense whatsoever to us. At the time, I joked that it would be hysterical if my kid turned out to be a jock. I think Mother Nature likes little jokes like that.
It wasn’t that child, but eventually the Universe did give me a little athlete in my Boy Child. When it became obvious that the kid loved to throw balls and play sports, despite my non sporty nature, I signed him up for some low key, non competitive sports, hoping someone else could guide him since I was "B team" material. We started with baseball.
I really wanted him to play just for fun, enjoy the game and all of that, so I thought it was a good thing that some of the leagues didn’t even keep score.
Of course, just like when I was a child, the kids know what’s up. They wanted to win and they kept score on their own. They were often wrong about the score, generally thinking they did much better than they actually did, but at least they had good self esteem, right?
At times, the parents and coaches have been nuts with their enthusiasm. The funny thing is, that as much as I talk about it all being about playing and fun, it turns out that my own enthusiasm gets a little overboard at times as well.
Fortunately, all of the youth leagues seem to have parental contracts which force the adults to agree (on paper anyway) on things like not yelling or cussing at refs, coaches or kids. (It's a sad, sad commentary on us as parents that this is even necessary.)
Despite a few injuries, my kid loves playing, competing and being part of a team. He loves the strategies and the lingo and the physical work. I love seeing him happy and thriving, so I’ve been willing to give up Saturday mornings to go to his games and cheer and even to attempt to learn the lingo and rules myself.
I’ve learned to resist the urge to go out and ask the boys if they are Ok when they get knocked over, and that in general, kids hate when you say things like “Good try” when they miss a shot.
Overall, I felt like I’ve been managing as a non-sporty sports mom fairly well. Then, this year, my Boy Child talked me into letting him play football. Now, not to be judgmental, but the game just brings to mind belly and face painting, Budweiser drinking and foods like chili cheese fries. I’m not condemning these things at all, just saying they aren’t my natural inclination.
Even after a few years of what I consider the mellower sports, I wasn’t sure I was ready for this, but when I looked at my Boy Child, I knew that this was about him and not me, and that this would be a good thing for him. So, we signed up and I tried to mentally prepare myself for what might lie ahead.
His first game came, and I silently imagined a scene of overzealous jersey wearing parents having tailgate parties and yelling at their kids. It turns out, the whole thing has been a pleasant surprise.
The coach is nice, the other kids are nice, and the parents are nice. They’re normal, and surprisingly a lot mellower than the basketball parents. As the season went on, they won some games and lost some games, but I never heard anyone yelling or saw any body painting or beer guzzling. I actually saw some good sportsmanship on all sides.
I often sat near the younger brother of another player who schooled me on the rules and technicalities of the game. For example, players are not allowed to do victory dances after touchdowns as it's considered "bad sportsmanship" and can result in penalties. Um...yeah...whatever.
Fortunately, there was nothing stating that observers and parents were prohibited celebratory dance moves (Although my son may not agree that this technicality was fortunate)
Despite knowing I occasionally embarrass my offspring with my enthusiasm (or perhaps partially because of it) as has been the case with other sports, I actually really like to watch when my kid is out there playing.
Today, we have the end of season Turkey Bowl, and yes, I am ready for another day of football. I'll let my inner cheerleader out one last time for a while, and then I'll gladly enjoy a few weeks off before the basketball season begins.