Monday, January 9, 2017

Some Ramblings on Sports... and other things...

I love football, y'all. 

Especially when the Steelers when big, like they did yesterday.

Which, by the way, I had to follow on my ESPN app on my phone, because we had more important sports action going on in the Bates house...

Will made his debut as a basketball player. He won (they don't keep score) because he "made it" when he shot the ball.

If you've never seen a youth basketball game with kids aged 5 and under you've missed a real treat.

My goal to laugh more this year?

Yep.  I belly laughed several times.

The kids roll around on the floor. They have no idea which basket at which they are supposed to be shooting. They wave at Mom and Dad and run into the bleachers and run off the court at will.

But they have fun...

which is what sports is all about.

Well, not always about fun. And there's never anything fun about losing, even though it builds character. And I'm NOT  a believer in the trophy generation... I think you should earn every stinking trophy you get. No participation trophies.

I can safely say that because I've lost a lot over the years. I never was an athlete... but I tried. Somehow my Dad convinced me to play tee-ball. I had a lot of fun spinning circles in the outfield, and picking dandelions, and chasing butterflies... which may have been why the other team's coach was so mad when I made the game-winning run in the end of the season tournament game.

Only because I somehow miraculously managed to get on base, and the next guy hit a homerun, but still...

I have always remembered the impassioned way that coach behaved after that game.... and it wasn't pretty, y'all.  And sometimes I behave that way.  And I shouldn't.

I also remember a parent from another team during my ponytail league years. This was where you actually had to hit a pitch, and I think we should have realized that if I could barely hit a ball OFF A TEE I probably wasn't going to be a pro at hitting a ball that came sailing through the air at me (thank God it was slow pitch!!) but I'm a slow learner so I actually played a couple of seasons.  (And my Mom and Dad PAID for it.  With money.  Paid for this punishment.)

I was a member of the team and the dug out was a nice place to gossip. I also learned lots of cheers, like "I see a hole out there..." although I never saw said hole because. 1. I was almost blind and 2. I had no hopes of the ball ever making it that far...

Anyway...I digress. One day I took my turn to bat, with a girl I considered a pretty good friend pitching. (I don't know if we were actually friends at that time... but we were friends in 7th grade. I even spent the night at her house a couple of times... and reflected on these words...)

So I'm up there at bat. The sun is beating down and I'm probably sweating and my glasses are probably sliding down my nose. And this parent, as I clutch the bat and swipe my feet in the dirt at home plate, yells, "Don't worry about your pitch. She's not going to hit it anyway. And if she does, you can throw her out at first."

Yep.  I heard it. I don't remember if I hit it or not, but I do know my Mom was blazing mad.

We never know what our words can do. They stick with others... good and bad.

I didn't need that dad telling me I wasn't too good at softball. I knew it. I had no ideals of pursuing a college scholarship in the sport... but I enjoyed being a part of a team. Looking back on it now, it's funny... but it wasn't then.

What you say to your kids... to other kids... they internalize it. Some of them can shake it off, but others take it to the bones.

We're told in the Bible that our words can either bring death or life. Now I'm not saying that those words killed my softball career.  I pretty much had already dug that grave and was getting ready to attend to the burial myself... but the point is, if I had truly loved softball, those words might have hurt me immeasurably.

We have to walk a fine line with our kids. They need criticism. They need to understand they aren't always going to be the best at everything, and sometimes a good ride on the bench helps them see that picture a little clearer... but we never have the right to criticize another kid.  Especially loud... in public.

This is the height of basketball season, an intense time at our house. (And I realize I've covered the gamut of sports in this post, except maybe bowling, and I apologize for skipping around).

As I watched Will run up and down that court Sunday, pure joy on his face, I started thinking about how we don't always let kids be kids. Youth sports are about teaching kids to compete fairly, being good sports, and learning to love the game.

If you're going to play, you have to love the game.

I'm glad that I got a little glimpse of the heart of a game... in those little ones who truly love it.

In parents who may have been keeping the score in their head, but cheered for both teams when they made a basket.

See, you can support your team in a way that doesn't demoralize the other team... and most importantly, that doesn't demoralize your teammates.

If you're a student athlete reading this, remember why you started... unless it's because your parents made you. (If that's the case, that's a whole other post).

Think about the love of the game you had, the exhilaration you felt when you first held that ball in your hand, when you first slipped on that uniform, when you first ran on a court.

Hold onto that. That feeling can never be replicated, but it can guide you every other night.

And parents, think about how proud you were that first time your kid made a shot. You work hard, too... driving them to and from practices and games. It's hard work, being a sports parent... but you'll only have that for a little while, and then it will be gone. Cherish it. Let them know you're proud of them, and support their teammates and coaches, even if you don't agree with every call made.

Because sometimes, the magic ends. The lights go out in the gym and you've laced up your last set of tennis shoes as a player, and you'll find yourself sitting in the stands with crazy people like me, and you'll hear a parent say something like that parent said about me and you'll shake your head because...

only you know what it's like to be on that free throw line with the game on the line.

But we know what's it's like to cheer as it bounces in. 

Ah... the joy of sports.

One of my favorite things in the world...

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