I wish for my children to be losers. There, I said it.
Quick point of clarification: I don't want them living at home in their late 30s, unemployed, aimlessly channel surfing and looking at me when the Cheetos bag is empty. That's what the teen years are for. But considering I just spent two hours on a soccer field sideline, soggy wool blanket draped over my shoulders while sleet pounded my face and successfully circumvented my winter coat and nestled against my bare skin, I'm perfectly OK with failure.
Parents, be honest: How many times have you been in a similar situation? Your voice shouts, "Come on Brittany, we just need one more run. Hit that ball!" Your mind, on the other hand, silently thinks, "Just strike out Brittany and end the game so my aching back can find support that these metal bleachers clearly lack. Honey, if you're upset, I'll gladly MapQuest a Dairy Queen."
What's happened to me? In this age of "all children are special, there are no losers, everybody gets a trophy, blah blah blah," why am I so negative? My parents never rooted for me to lose.
Then again, they cheered for me at 90-minute games, not the weekend-long, out-of-town, up-at-5-a.m.-and-not-done-until-8 p.m. tournaments that now permeate youth sports. These events are run either by individuals who don't have kids or who desperately need another hobby, preferably one that requires solitude. May I suggest gardening?
My neighbor has a son whose baseball "season"" is actually 3 1/2 seasons, culminating in a multiday Fourth of July tournament attended by parents who, if you could read their minds, are most likely thinking, "Turn an ankle, Brandon. Then I can finally get our boat out of dry dock."
My 16-year-old-daughter's volleyball season begins in November and ends in June with the eagerly anticipated (if you're a Disney stockholder) Amateur Athletic Union National Championships in Orlando, featuring five glorious you-pay-all-the-expenses days of sitting in a sweltering convention center. Considering my 11-year-old is also an avid volleyball player, I have come to the realization that the only thing preventing me from spending a portion of my next seven summers in Orlando will be if one of us tears an ACL.
Sprinkled in between the start and finish of volleyball season are numerous tournaments operating under the "winners keep playing, losers go home" formula. Here is where my -- some might say "selfish" -- side rears its ugly head. Yes, I want my daughters to give it their all on the court, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't be perfectly happy giving my all on the couch, watching football. And I speak from experience; one year a diving save by my eldest led to a hard fought victory. It also caused me to miss the Super Bowl the next day. When the other team lost, I jealously watched dads high-five each other while grabbing their cellphones, speed dialing their buddies and screaming, "The party's at my house after all!"
By now most readers of this column are thinking, "OK, Mr. Self-Centered, 'It's All About Me' parent. Why sign your kids up for sports if you're just going to complain?" Therein lies the irony. I want my children to be physically fit, to experience the thrill of victory, and to cherish the value of team bonding. But try finding a sports team that hasn't morphed into a sports "club," complete with travel commitments, multiday practices and mandatory fundraisers that consist of bidding on silent auction items I'll never use but will help the team pay for another hotel night? Not gonna happen, at least not in my town.
So I'll continue suffering through lengthy car trips, inclement weather and horrible seating accommodations, cheering my kids to victory while softly repeating the Sports Parent's Motto:
When the final game is on the line
And your body is moist with sweat
Look at the time, it's well past nine
Now kick it in your own net
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