A Sports Parent’s Day of Reckoning “Take all they throw at you as a challenge. Mental and physical. Push yourself!” “Play hard and tough and hustle and the rest will take care of itself.” “Remember pain and an injury are different; push through.” These are a just a few of the texts I’ve sent my kids in the last three weeks while they were at camp and other training. Notice a common theme or thread? I have spent the last five years talking, yelling, discussing and cajoling my kids into working hard and reaching their potential. I’m pretty sure they have learned to completely block me out. I assume I sound more like Charlie Brown’s teacher at this point, than an inspiring coach I always hope to channel.
Last week it was all thrown back in my face.
I had decided to play in a women’s basketball league. It was my second time playing in this league and only my third time playing basketball in probably fifteen years. At first I didn’t think much of it, except that it wouldn’t be easy. Despite having earned a Division 1 basketball scholarship more than 25 years ago, I’m 47 years old and have had two back surgeries, so I don’t move as well as I used to. This night was a little different, the league organizer said my kids could play since they needed a few extra bodies. My older daughters who are 12 and 13 wanted to give it a try and my little one decided to watch. I was excited about them playing but hadn’t given it much more thought than that. Then suddenly, it hit me like a ton of bricks! As dread washed over me, I realized it was MY DAY OF RECKONING.
I happened to glance over at the bleachers; my youngest was staring at me with an expression that I can still see perfectly. It was an odd expression that said: ok woman, you have spent countless hours preaching to us, vomiting sports proverbs and now for the first time ever, we get to see YOU PLAY. You better bring it! I felt my heart beating very fast. My palms started sweating and a knot was growing bigger in my stomach. I couldn’t help but think that if I couldn’t go hard or didn’t play well, or couldn’t push through inevitable discomfort, that they might not ever listen to another word I said! As my younger one looked on, the three of us took the court. I tried to collect myself, and my middle daughter said, “this is so cool to play together Mommy.” … Gulp!
My hand is slightly shaking now. I have to play well or I will literally be the biggest fraud on the planet and my kids will know this about me. How will I ever be able to look them in the eye after all I’ve said over the years? My kids will not factor in that I’m three years away from fifty, and one rebound away from a torn ACL or another herniated disc in my fused spine. None of this would matter to my kids. They won’t and shouldn’t think about that. So, it’s now or never to prove myself. The game starts. First time up the court, my nerves get me and I make a bad pass. I catch my little one shoot me a look of disapproval. I’m having a hard time catching my breath. I think to myself, this is not going to go well for me. Next time down, my middle daughter scores on a fast break. I block a shot on our end, send it down to another player for another fast break. I’m starting to relax. My oldest daughter is hustling back and forth and working really hard. This time on our end, I get my shot blocked. Not good. OK, I must redeem myself; any minute my little girl on the sideline will be leaving with my husband and I have to prove myself. I get a quick layup on the opposite end, a give-and-go with my middle daughter (so cool!). Another bucket by my eldest follows. OK, settling in now. I have calmed myself down and am starting to play better. By halftime, I am totally relieved. I slap hands with my kids after good plays and pump them up on bad ones, I think to myself, not only did a dodge a major bullet in regards to my sports parenting, but I am one of the luckiest moms on the planet to have had this opportunity. Sharing a sport I love and having the BEST TIME.
A week later a friend says, “I heard you are playing basketball in a women’s league.” I said, “yes, where did you hear that?” She said my youngest daughter had told her and had also mentioned, “My mom is the star!” I was embarrassed by the statement, but it also made me smile.