My daughters play sports. I never really played on serious teams outside of school as an elementary kid growing up. We really couldn't afford it. And back in the 90s that wasn’t as big of a thing as it is now. So I guess I didn’t miss too much. Although I used to believe that playing club sports would probably have made me an even better athlete than I was. (Granted, I ended up being a three sport varsity athlete for 11 of 12 division three college seasons and earning first team all league honors in all three). So maybe I could have been better but I'm glad I ended where I did.
That aside, I put my kids into club sports because why not. My 8 year old made the third grade select team. Like most clubs teams, they have many levels and many grade levels (primarily to keep the club alive and floating with a funnel of talent). We arrived during the transition between the older athletes (tweens and teens) and my daughter's team. The tweens and teens stood and watched as the younger athletes were warming up. Some of them shared giggles and awwws and "Remember when...". As the older girls began getting into their car pools, one girl yelled out "Enjoy it girls, while it's still fun". Then she disappeared into the suburban caravan of Range Rovers, Escalades, and Minivans.
At first thought, "How dare she... I mean she's ruining it for them. What if my daughter heard that and ask me about it later?”. But then I thought "Oh my god, that's real. That's real talk".
The thoughts kept swirling in my head. And before I came to a conclusion, I thought of my own mom. She only missed a few games from middle school through college. I thought about the sacrifices, the post game meltdown recovery, the long rides home, and all the pregame pep talks. I want that so bad. I want to talk about the game when no one wants to talk about it. I want to feel the anxiety of not wanting to watch because everything is on the line. I want to boo and cheer and high five and scream and clap and stand up and jump and wear stupid colors with other people and get soaked and get cold and be too hot because I left my hat at home and look over at her dad and nod and walk across a field or court on senior night and cry through injuries and encourage during recovery. I want all of that... But most importantly I want whatever my daughter wants.
Parents can get overzealous because we really want what is best for our kid. We're like waaaay too intense or waaaaay too emotionally or waaaaay too logically focused of "the goal". Anything that jeopardizes "the goal" is bad. So the idea that this girl yells out "Enjoy it girls, while it's still fun" before she jumps into her car, made me freak out. But what is the end game? What’s the end goal really? Right now watching my kid is probably what is best for her because it is her life. This is her game to play. I can't play for her. I can't practice for her. I can't get her jazzed up 100% before the game. I can't fully get her out of her slump. I can’t keep it fun. I am on the sidelines and this is her time.
When that older girl got in the car and yelled back, “Enjoy it girls, while it's still fun"... she was right. 100% correct. Because really that's all we can do. And when it's no longer fun my daughter has a choice to make... and I'll be there on the sidelines mentoring her and encouraging her to make the choice that's best for her.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.