Saying Goodbye to the Sideline

Lisa writes: It is the beginning of the end.  As the cool autumn air descends, Mary Dell and I stand on the sideline for one final season, watching our seniors take to the fields with their respective high school soccer teams. We are breathing in memories from the days when their little legs were so small that their soccer shorts and socks had barely a gap between them. We also recall the final inning home run in third grade and the game-winning touchdown in high school, both straight out of a feel good movie. There were spine-tingling buzzer beaters and heart breaking losses. There were seasons spent mostly on the bench and seasons spent in starring roles.  We remember it all.

Team Sports, sideline parents

As we move from the sidelines of our kids’ games to the sidelines of their lives, still watching, still cheering, but at a distance, it all comes rushing back. We remember terrifying trips to the ER for x-rays or stitches, clutching a child in our arms and wondering, if only for a minute, whether competitive sports really were such a good idea.  There were tears to be wiped, tears of disappointment, frustration, anger or confusion. But, these tears reminded us why our kids play on teams and how many of life’s lessons can be learned on the playing field.  And there was joy, pure exultant joy, the cup-overflowing happiness that comes to a child who has worked and practiced and, with a bit of luck, finds the success they pursued.

We have cheered and consoled.  We have offered first aid and Gatorade. But we have never stood alone.  At our sides stood some of the most wonderful parents we ever hope to meet. Some of these parents were our closest friends, others we might never have crossed paths with and count ourselves lucky that we were able to share a bleacher.

In the spirit of offering our thanks, will be eternally grateful to:

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Tailgate

Mary Dell writes: Saturday mornings dawn with the luxurious realization that the day belongs to me, my husband, one very self sufficient high school daughter, and two chocolate Labradors.  Weekends are no longer dominated by our two kids’ soccer-hockey-lacrosse-football-baseball games- track and swim meets (and the tailgate that went with it.) While I thoroughly enjoyed watching them develop from clumsy little kids, just learning the rules of the sports, to varsity and even collegiate athletes, I am not mourning the end of that phase of their young lives.

tailgate

 

Most of  all, I will not miss the dreaded snack schedule. In agreeing to be parent-coaches, we understood that post-game refreshments were a part of the job. Whenever my husband signed on, the administrative duties of the team fell on my non-athletic shoulders. Fortunately, a carton of Dunkin Donuts Munchkins and a dozen juice boxes would suffice for the youngest athletes. Heaven help the parent who forgot or didn’t understand that it was their day.

A team of hungry, tired t-ball players could morph into a cranky mob-ette quickly once they realized there would be no refreshments waiting after the game.

As our children grew older and became more serious about athletics, they left town sports behind and took their places on travel team rosters.  The games became longer as did the distance between venues; an entire weekend day could easily disappear into an away game abyss.  Our garage became cluttered with the gear of the sport and the accoutrement of the required refreshments. Saturday mornings were spent loading the car with so many bats and balls and provisions that I felt like we were setting off for a camping trip rather than a double-header baseball game.

Once high school stadiums became the arena for competition, we learned that the snack schedule, now the tailgate,  was an integral aspect of being a captain’s parent.  At the season-ending team dinners, the next year’s leaders were announced. Congratulations were offered to the newly honored players while condolences were whispered to their parents.  So much for the box of Munchkins for our eight year olds; a three course seated dinner for fifty football players – after every game- became the new norm.  Oh, my!

Now, on Saturdays, I leisurely read each section of The New York Times and scan the sports pages while sipping a second cup of coffee.  The Labradors snooze at my feet as I glance at the TV line-up to see if there are any games that might be interesting to watch.  Our tailgate? A slice of cold pizza from the take-out dinner my husband and I enjoyed the night before.

Do you miss watching your kid play sports?