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GIVE WELLNESS A TRI | Don’t make her get out the knitting needles
As I write, I am sitting at my 10-year-old son’s baseball game feeling surprisingly grateful. Usually Pee Wee sports excite me as much as the proverbial paint-drying show. The only team sport that doesn’t bore me on principle is American football. The fits and spurts of young unskilled players exhaust my limited patience and the spectators’ chatter in the bleachers tries my last nerve. Last year’s soccer season was so bad I was forced to get domestic and learn to knit as a coping device.
It’s not that I’m unwilling to buck up and put in the requisite amount of “seat on sidelines” time to satisfy the minimum standard of parental duty. I am. My complaint lies with what seems to be the norm for parental behavior on these sidelines. I just want to come, do my time, collect my good parent point, and go home.
Instead, more often than not, I have been subjected to listening to parents challenging the referees/umpires’ calls. Their comments border on abusive when, in my humble opinion, they should be licking the dirt off of these people’s shoes in appreciation for providing their time and energy — for minimal pay — so our children can play. These umpires have absolutely no investment in the game. So to think that a questionable call originates from bias, rather than understandable humanity, borders on psychotic paranoia (in my humble opinion, of course). To not realize that any good luck or bad luck that the ump provides eventually evens out by the end of each game seems incredibly short sighted.
I’ve heard parents bad mouth the opposing team’s players. These are little league fields people not pro stadiums. Voices carry. That’s a child you’ve just critiqued and insulted. A child with a fragile, still developing ego. And, a child who has a Mama and Papa Bear, also within earshot, who you’d better watch out for.
I’ve heard parents critiquing the strategy and behavior of the opposing coach completely oblivious to how their own child’s coach has practices and eccentricities that are just as annoying. Ummm... Pot, this is the Kettle calling, I’d like to inform you . . . .”
And I’ve heard parents critique the motives of their own child’s coach claiming that their child is being cheated out of playing time or position preference because of some underlying political agenda on the coaches’ part. Seriously?
I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure that the coach is desperately trying to maintain that very delicate balance between keeping people happy because they get to play and keeping people happy because they get to experience an actual team win. Maintaining that balance usually renders one incapable of political scheming.
Since these scenarios have become my spectating “norm,” I am amazed by the crowd I now find myself in. Parents who go out of their way to cheer by saying the individual name of players who are not their own children yet always cheer the team name when their own child shines. These parents notice the impressive plays of the opposing team and routinely yell out “great job first base” to a rival child who has just bested their own. These parents simply ignore the opposing coach, or at worst, quietly roll their eyes. These parents are real, not figments of my imagination, and prove it by complaining about the umpire’s calls. But, they manage to do so in a “G” rated manner and make it sound like good natured “ribbing” rather than an all-out attack.
These parents help me support all the darn good reasons why I encourage my son to participate in a sport that bores me: They create a positive atmosphere that allows my child to enjoy a sport he truly loves; they help me teach my son sportsmanship by modeling respect for fellow players; they teach my son to respect legitimate authority by respecting the “in good faith” efforts of the umpires and coaches. They realize that the game is not the end. It is a means to an end – and that end is not winning. That end is learning the important life lessons that the game has to teach.
As I finish this, my son’s team has just lost. Drats! I hear his coach say, “OK boys, you made some great plays out there. But, this is a game. Someone has to win and someone has to lose. You lost today. Let’s learn from this game and try again tomorrow.”
“Thank goodness,” I say to myself. “I might not have to knit for the rest of the season."
Seabeck resident Lisa Ballou is a four-time IronMan triathlete and is organizer of the Kitsap TriBabes.