I remember when my son first took the basketball court. I was so proud a tear came to my eye.
I played in school, and was very good. All I wanted for my son was a chance for him to have the great experience that I did with organized sports. The camaraderie of defeating your opponents together. What could bring you closer?
It started of well, with me cheering him from the sidelines, but all too soon I realized my cheers had become constructive criticism. “Pass the ball!” “Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!” “Watch the ball!”
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw my son talking out around the three-point mark with a player from the other team. Over the noise of the gym, I could still make out what they were talking about, they were that far away from the play. They were talking about Thomas the Tank Engine.
“Get your head in the game!” My son rattled, turned his head with a start, and tried to comply. I wish I hadn’t turned into that mom, but I had. It would be best if I could have controlled myself without learning the lesson the hard way. In a way, I’m glad I got it out of my system so early. We still had more than half the season left, and in that moment, yelling from the sidelines, I could see a truth about my child that I had all too conveniently ignored. He is not competitive. And that is fine with me. He just wanted to make friends.
We had just moved from Virginia to Massachusetts and my son saw basketball as a place to forge friendships. In his young wisdom, he knew sport can bring people together, in victory or defeat. Once I saw that he wasn’t there to crush his enemies, I recognized his attempts to be friendly. The remainder of the season, I kept my mouth shut, and offered praise after each game. “That was a great pass!” “Your shot was so close, maybe next time, bud!”
Then something wonderful happened. He made a shot, and his face was priceless. I had another tear well up in my eye. I didn’t miss it because I was relaxed and enjoying the game, instead of trying to coach him from the sidelines. But he didn’t look to me when it happened, he had his teammates congratulate him, and that is why he was there. To have friends.
With my competitive nature, I can truly understand if you are unable to get to the zen state, where you watch calmly from the sidelines, and let the team coach instruct your child. A small suggestion to those who need to be involved, volunteer, get a team of your own to coach, and instruct the athletes of the future. Then take your coach hat off and enjoy your kid’s game. Maybe they’ll even win when they aren’t distracted by all your yelling and screaming.