All three of my children have been into sports, far more than I ever was as a child. Heck, I joined marching band in high school so that I could take that instead of PE. My sports experience as a youth ended when I was about eight when my parents got sick of the way the other parents treated their children and harassed the coaches on my local Little League team. I actually have no memories at all of playing baseball as a kid, so perhaps that’s telling too.
The journey’s been different for my children. All three have played basketball on school teams, and both girls have really enjoyed volleyball while G- got into lacrosse for a few years. In all cases, it’s been a mixed bag as it seemed there was always a parent or two who were so emotionally invested in their child’s performance that they were jerks. To put it mildly.
Worse, one of those irate parent/coaches was the parent of one of my children’s best friends, a parent whose own daughter had to intervene at one game so that her parent didn’t get into a physical altercation with another passionate parent. Why yes, I am being a bit vague about it.
Crazy parents are the worst, because then they teach children that those sort of behaviors are acceptable and they can suck the joy out of a game faster than a meteorite puncture on a spaceship.
But that wasn’t today. My youngest, K-, is on a YMCA volleyball team with a couple of her best friends and when I popped in to see what was going on, it was terrific. Thirty girls, a young woman coach, and a crowd that clapped the bad serves and mistakes almost as much as the solid serves and graceful returns. And girls that were as likely to high five each other on a lost point as on a point won.
After 90 minutes of drills the girls were split up into four teams and played a quick set of round-robin elimination games. I ended up being the designated cheerleader for K’s team, which was quite entertaining. Apparently my shouts of “Go Lions!” was a bit embarrassing for my girl, though. But all good, that’s a key job of any parent to occasionally embarrass their teen!
All told, it was really fun, a definite highlight of my day. Everyone was having a good time, there wasn’t an overt meritocracy of skills (though it was pretty clear who was a good player and who was just starting to learn the game) and everyone had a chance to learn from the coach too.
But more than that, there was a sense of satisfaction, a sense of life being alright. A sense of community that is hard to create through other means. A reminder that whatever’s happening on the national stage, sometimes all you need to worry about is your own family, your own community, your own tribe.