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Two, Four, Six, Eight, What Do I Appreciate?

May 4, 2012

I have become a sports fan.

I played a couple of sports in high school and college, and I enjoy being physically active, but I’ve never cared much about the big spectator sports. I wasn’t hostile, just indifferent.

Two of my three boys are playing team sports now, however, and that makes me happy. I still don’t give a rat’s ass about sports per se, but I love what they’re teaching my kids.

No one is good at everything

A couple of weeks after one of my guys started playing, I confessed to my Peerless Spouse, “I’m worried that he’s the worst one on the team.” “Oh, he is,” my Peerless Spouse assured me. Alrighty then.

You can enjoy something even if you’re not good at it

No matter what the Successories posters tell you, you don’t actually have to strive for excellence in all things. Adequate can be enjoyable too. (Although if you’re bad at sex, get some tips, no matter how much you’re enjoying it. You shouldn’t be the only one in the room/car/alley who is.)

You can get better if you practice

The boy mentioned above loved the game so much that he played with anyone who was willing, and eventually he became pretty good.

You can’t be anything you want (but you can be involved in the things you love)

I love gumption and stick-to-itiveness as much as the next person, but when I hear people announcing brightly that anything is possible, I need to seek medical treatment for excessively rolled eyes. Set your sights on Pope or President or even MVP and watch as your life fails to measure up to your expectations. Do I sound like a dream killer? I’m happy to talk to my kids about how much fun it would be to play professional ball. We can explore that fantasy all they want. But I also want them to notice how many other ways there are to be involved in your favorite thing: Big enterprises need a lot of support, so maybe you could be part of that group. Maybe you could do the recreational version of your sport as an adult. Maybe you could coach.

You can have a good time doing something for other people

Ah, youth coaches. You are paragons of patience, cheerful and kind in the face of laughable but adorable incompetence. Thank you for giving up so much of your time. I am doing my best, I promise, to make sure my kid appreciates you. And thank you for calling attention to the things the kids on the team do right – my son beams for the rest of the day after he’s been singled out for praise, and he is genuinely happy for his teammates’ successes.

Someone else’s talent isn’t taking anything away from you

Teams aren’t graded on a curve; one kid’s great play is still great even if his teammate has a great play, too. The more there are, the better the team. Yes, there is going to be a winning team and a losing team eventually. But what makes a good game isn’t one team pounding the other.

 You can be engaged even on the sidelines

Cheer your teammates on. Make small talk with the other kids who are warming the bench. Honey Badger is generally slow to warm up to strangers, but he can make friends on his team within a couple of weeks.

Listen up

Parenting is a great gig if you love repeating yourself. As my children have gotten older, I do it less, but that means waiting until they figure out that I said something, figure out what I said, and put themselves into action. On the field, they have to listen to the coach and do what they’re told as soon as they’re told.

Some rules aren’t negotiable

Out is out is out, and all the complaining in the world won’t change that. Stop arguing and get on with the game.

You’ve got a certain reputation — what are you going to do about it?

People may approach your team with assumptions. You have a chance to confirm their good opinion or undermine their bad one, and vice versa. Opinions change, and what you do will be what changes them.

There’s always another game. Or season.

Congratulations on your win, or sorry about your loss. There’s going to be another game, even if it isn’t until next season. It’s not a do-over, but it’s another chance.

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2 Comments
  1. May 9, 2012 11:40 pm

    Now I’m the one who needs to expand my thinking and not close the tab after that first sentence! God I hope my kids learn those lessons if she ever becomes interested in sports (and not the lessons my husband learned – only a few star players matter, you better have the most expensive gear possible, etc). How did you pick their teams? Or did they pick them?

    • May 10, 2012 7:17 pm

      Depending on the sport, there can be a little flexibility in which league you sign up for and what the league’s philosophy is. Even if you think you’ve found the league that meshes well with your family’s goals for sports, there can be unpleasant surprises, but it’s good practice for looking at the big picture (and saying “No” to expensive gear, even if other kids on the team have it, which they will).

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