You know what I like? Like, really, really like? Winning. From Chutes & Ladders to blogging awards, I can’t seem to help myself. As a kid, I only wanted to do something if I could be one of the best. (Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I still feel that way…I just know a bit more about reality.) Suffice it to say, team sports weren’t my thing. I stuck to swimming — one of the few sports where your teammates are also your competition.
My boys, on the other hand, adore team sports. They have no problem diving in (literally) and getting dirty (literally and figuratively). When they hit the field, they come alive. And me? I love watching them play.
So, I know I have to be careful. Big is a lot like me. He’s outrageously competitive and hard on himself. But, unlike me, he has a great sense of sportsmanship. His basketball team struggled enormously when it came to the scoreboard, but it was a hugely successful year if you ask him. Because he — and his team — improved, and had fun cheering each other on along the way. (Then again, getting his name in the highlights newsletter a few times may have had something to do with that. See, he is like me.)
Baseball has been much the same. We kissed sweet, hilarious t-ball goodbye, and dove head first into real baseball. You know, the kind with a pitching machine and playoffs. The season got off to a rocky start, but the kids — and coaches — have kept an amazing attitude and dedicated themselves to working their butts off to improve. There’s no newsletter and the coaches don’t give game balls to individuals — they truly focus on the team effort, which I love. And you know what? It’s paid off big time. The team has bonded in a wonderful way, and the kids have dramatically improved — win or lose. It’s truly been a thrill to watch.
Through all of this, I keep thinking of an article my friend, Melinda, sent me, What Makes a Nightmare Sports Parent, And What Makes a Great One. The article, which is absolutely worth a read, talks about an informal survey of college athletes. The thing they hated most about youth and high school sports? Driving home with well-meaning parents talking over the game — and offering advice on how to improve next time. The thing they loved most? Hearing, “I loved watching you play.”
I joked about my sidelines behavior during basketball season, and I have to say, baseball has brought out the crazy in me too. Not because I want Big to play well or win for me, but because I know it’s what he wants. And, as his mom, it’s my job to want that for him too. Right?
Within the walls of our house, Big seems enormous. Capable. Confident. (Even over confident, much of the time.) But when I’m sitting there on the sidelines of his games — out on that great big baseball field, he looks tiny. I’m quickly reminded that he’s still a really little kid, with so much time left to learn, to love, and to burn out. It’s not my job to coach him (which is good since I know very little about the sports he loves), it’s my job to be his mom.
Goodness knows there have been games I’ve been frustrated watching him make the mistakes his coaches have tried patiently to help him fix. And there have been times I’ve been outraged by the opposing coaches lack of sportsmanship. But there hasn’t been a single game yet that I haven’t been one proud mama.
So tonight, as Big’s team comes off the field after another playoff game, you can bet he will hear — loud and clear — that I loved watching him play.