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...over-educated and under-experienced, or so they say...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Game Face

Athletics is just one of the many interests of my daughter.  I wouldn't say it consumes her, I wouldn't say she has these fantastic dreams of professional sports or anything along those lines, but I would say that she views anything athletic as a space in which she is free to be completely on fire and never apologize for any fury she may express on the field, or court, or track.  It is, as her mother, one of my favorite things to watch.

I bring all of this up because, as a parent that has spent the past several years sitting with parents whose children also play sports, I have struggled with the fact that I just want to watch my girl play while the parents around me seem to always think their child isn't playing well enough, isn't played enough, or has a terrible coach who just doesn't recognize "the amazing talent" that is their child and ... ugh ... Parents just get on my nerves.

I hated the club team parents on Hope's last soccer team -- they definitely made Pandora's Top Ten List of Bad Juju Entities.  While they were all complaining about spending $2,000 to have their lame ass kid play for a coach that was too dumb to recognize "the best player" on the team, I found myself complaining that I had spent $2,000 to listen to these idiots whine instead of watch my daughter learn from someone who knew what they were doing while simultaneously releasing whatever fire it is she holds that I love to watch burn.

This past weekend, however, while Hope played in a basketball tournament, I had one of the best parent moments of my life -- not because Hope outshined anyone, not because she made the greatest shot of the game, but because the people that sat beside me and behind me were some of the best family spectators I have ever had the pleasure of being around.

Admittedly, they are friends of mine (excellent friends to me and to Hope), and they did come to support Hope, but aside from the one I will call Sidekick, I had never sat with the entire group of them before and man... was it an education and inspirational experience.  They all supported and cheered Hope, but they clearly went into game mode and they supported and cheered the entire team.

They come from a strong family background of athletes, their father was an athlete and coach of athletes for years, and in my opinion they should be coaching a team of young athletes as well: every twist, every turn, every good play, every bad play, it didn't matter... these people broke it down in terms of the game and in terms of the capability and potential of each athlete on the team.

I don't have the knowledge or the skill to do them justice right now (i.e. I am unable to break things down in shop talk the way they did), but when one of the girls would make a play that the average idiot parent would've considered an opportunity to spew something negative, these people would respond with something like, "Well, I can see what she was trying to do, and it was an excellent idea, her execution was wrong because of ... but that is teachable, an easy thing to correct..."  And when one parent might complain because their child wasn't being used as the main shooter because "that's their strength," these individuals would respond with, "Oh yeah!  She's the best choice for defense because of... and look how awesome she is at it! Good call 4!  Good defense!"  And when the one player who had the ball didn't take a shot because she knew she was blocked and she passed it to who she thought was open but it still didn't pan out as planned, while the rest of the parents groaned and complained about why their daughter didn't take the shot because the coach is teaching her nothing, these individuals responded with, "That was a good call on her part.  She did what she was supposed to do -- look for someone who was open, it just was difficult to find someone truly open."

This may all seem so simple and so common sense, because to me... it is.  I love these people, I love how they see the game, I love how they see the young girls playing -- it's all about learning, it's all about development.  This isn't professional ball, this is a group of 12 and 13 year old girls who are barely getting started.  Why is that so hard for parents to see?!  Why is it somehow the coach's fault that the girls are green and the epitome of novice?  Why is it somehow unheard of that a young girl who is learning might make an error in judgment?  And why is it that the same girl who is probably sad her team lost the game is about to climb into the car with her parent and listen to a world of negativity about her performance and her coach's performance when what she really needs to hear is, "You played strong and you played hard and I'm proud of you.  Did you have fun?"

Hope played a great game.  They lost, but I was proud as hell, and I was proud of all the girls.  They've had a rough season because they are all green, but this weekend they busted out with a strong will to win and a true show of growth and they closed the point gap to a difference of 5 when it used to be 20.  This is huge.  As a parent watching the child grow and improve in many facets of life, as a parent who has also been a teacher, I give props to the coaches who've also had a rough season teaching a group of greenies.  And, at least for me, I'd like to applaud the group of friends that came and supported the girls with the most positive juju they've probably had in the stands the entire season.  Positive energy is like water -- pour it on the young seedlings and they grow, and you, my friends, brought a good rain of positive water for these girls this weekend.  If only the majority would pick up on the idea and run with it the way you do.

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