Friday, January 18, 2013

Sports can sometimes be so serious that we lose out on fun

From today's Briefing:

One of the joys of living in a community that caters to families is that there are ample opportunities for lessons and competition related to arts, sports, science and more.
Here in Frisco — and in many other communities — we take the business of raising our children seriously. Sometimes we’re so serious, in fact, that we suck the joy right out, filling the void with frustration and anger.
Take, for example, soccer.
Cooper plays on a recreational team, part of a group of sixth-grade boys who have played together since preschool.
Three of the dads volunteer as coaches. Expenses are minimal. Uniforms aren’t fancy. We don’t cross city lines to play or spend our weekends at cutthroat tournaments.
There aren’t many rec teams left by sixth grade. Most of the kids who still play are on club or select teams that require tryouts, hefty fees, paid coaches and multiple practices each week.
The kids on those select teams work hard to meet high expectations set by themselves, their parents and the team. They are passionately focused on skills and techniques. Their families sacrifice time and resources to support them.
It’s not the choice that our family has pursued, but it’s the right choice for many families.
Usually, rec teams play only rec teams, and select teams play only select.
In the winter, though, when soccer is almost exclusively indoors and the stakes are lower, teams mix it up. The select teams keep playing to stay sharp. Our ragtag team plays because the boys love to play together.
We ragtag parents know that because we’ve chosen to live in a competitive community that values kids — sometimes to an extreme — and because our sons don’t play at the same level as most of the other boys, there’s a high probability that our team is going to lose.
We don’t want to lose. We don’t tell the boys that we think they’ll lose. We are supportive. We are engaged from the first kickoff to the final buzzer. We applaud and holler for every block and every shot.
When a ref makes a questionable call, we grumble. When our sons score, we go a little crazy.
Last Sunday night, our boys played a particularly strong team. Their bench was deep. Every player was solid. Some of their parents wore team jerseys.
Their boys scored some beautiful goals shot from seemingly impossible angles with admirable precision.
Halfway through the second half, the select team was winning, 8-0. No one in that indoor arena doubted who would win.
Still, our rec boys didn’t give up. They were anxious to score at least once and to defend their goal.
Who else didn’t give up? The other team’s coach.
This man maintained his intensity and fine-tuned screaming skills for the duration. He coached until the very end as if this match would determine the World Cup lineup.
Sixth-grader misses a shot on goal? Yell at him. Another teammate passes the ball when you wanted him to dribble? Yell at him. Allow the rec team to finally score one goal? Yell even louder.
He couldn’t scream loud enough to drown out our celebratory whoops.
That goal was our only score. Our opponents scored a couple more times. They earned their win and bragging rights.
Would they have won with a quieter, less angry second-half coach? Almost without a doubt. I suspect that team will never know, though. Because raising kids and pushing them to win, to be the best, is serious business around these parts.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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