I was never going to be a ‘soccer mom’. (or a softball mom, or a baseball mom, or a basketball mom, or a football mom).
I was never going to run from the softball field to the soccer field to the volleyball court.
I was never, ever, ever going to get up at 5:30 am on a Sunday to be at a 7am indoor soccer game.
I was never going to yell and cheer and jump up and down in the stands of a 2nd grade soccer match as though I was at the World Cup (because that is undignified).
I was never going to plan my Summer vacations around baseball and softball games and tournaments, or sit in the stands from 10am to 6pm.
But I have. And I do.
Because above all else, I love to watch them play.
Anyone who knows me in any capacity is fully aware of my utter lack of athletic prowess. Both my seven and nine year old small people could take me in a race. (I’m not proud of this, but it is a fact.) I am, at 41, still afraid of the ball – any ball. I never learned to throw a softball, I broke my knee playing soccer, sprained my wrist trying out for volleyball and knocked out a tooth and broke fingers when gymnastics was ‘my sport’. Now swimming? That I can do – but naturally, it is the one thing my children don’t do competitively.
For my husband and children – their athleticism, their teams – it is their bond.
For us? It is my active participation as a fan.
It is, that I love to watch them play.
I love that they love to play. I love them excited and red-faced, sweaty and energized with a win, tired and frustrated by a loss, the ‘I-could-have-done-better’ or ‘we were out-played’ etched across their small features.
I don’t push them to play. I ask them if they want to – each and every time. Are we the family that you might hold up as the example of ‘over-scheduled’? Yes. And I’m ok with that. Why? Because amidst the teams, they read, they find time to play with their friends, they study hard and have wonderful grades, they get enough sleep, they eat well and above all, they are happy.
I know this.
Because I love to watch them play. At everything in life.
We have a family rule: After each game – no critiques of their performance, no thoughts on how the team played or what anyone could have done better.
Just this: I love to watch you play.
I’ve seen too many kids crumble, frustrated by the game, by everything, only to be taken down by the people who are supposed to be dedicated to lifting them up. Don’t get me wrong, my job is to guide them – to help them through the good and the bad and work with them when they need to improve, but not when the moment is fresh.
Last night we watched together, as we always do, as the Olympic Games kicked off. It may sound silly, but every two years I look forward to this ‘family time’. The opportunity for the kids to see the heart-stopping, jaw-dropping Olympic Games’ moments that these athletes have been training for all their lives. They are skilled. They are gifted. They are magnificent to watch. And we love to watch them play.
But it all started somewhere. With a love of a sport. With a love of a game. With training and practice and effort and sacrifice.
And someone who loved to watch them play.
As someone who has been lucky enough to meet a few of this year’s competing Winter Games Athletes : Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Noelle Pikus-Pace, Sarah Hendrickson and Torin Yater-Wallace, I know that there was moment that pushed them forward…something that helped to tip them in to the athletes they are today – was it practice? The support of family? The perfect teammate? An uncontainable zest for their sport? Or a little bit of all of it?
From this non-athletic mother, from this mother who fully embraces that children can be and sometimes are over-scheduled….begin by recognizing that whatever you decide to do with your child should be individual to them and not necessarily a universal, family rule. One child may be able to handle three activities while the other needs to focus on only one and school.
And though my team days were restricted to high-school swimming, I am re-learning, through the eyes of a parent, the many life lessons to be gleaned from playing a sport.
Be part of something greater than yourself – Learn to play for and with a team or on behalf of your school. Understand what it means to represent something bigger than you, to have other people trust you, rely on you.
Don’t quit – you may decide this sport, this team, this game isn’t for you, but part of life is learning to see a committment through. You can’t walk away the moment you are frustrated or not seeing the results you want.
Losing is part of life – as hard as it is to learn, not everyone gets a trophy – not in sports and not in life. And that is ok. Learn to be proud of how hard you worked, of the effort you made, of the team you love.
Grace in success is divine – humility, the ability to be humble in the face of extraordinary success is a gift and it doesn’t come without having been both on the winning and losing team. Experience and embrace both emotions, remember what it feels like as you grow both in to your sport and in to the person you will become.
And finally, your small people need desperately the gift of your wisdom – they will need lifting when they don’t make the team, they will need to work through defeat and learn to keep their chins up, proud of their hard work, they will need your push when you can see past their heartache to their true love of the game, they will need your willingness to support them – getting them to practices and games, matches and events, but above all, they will need to know that you love to watch them play.
Do your children participate in sports? If not what do you LOVE to watch them do? Play an instrument? Excel on stage? Tackle a science competition? Tell them TODAY that you love to watch them…..