After a Spring Without Them, I Promise Never to Complain About High School Sports Again

Last fall my high school sophomore – an avid golfer, out of the blue decided he wanted to join the cross country team in lieu of playing fall golf. As a long time runner myself, I was overjoyed that he was branching out of his athletic comfort zone and trying something new. I was excited to see what high school cross country meets were all about, and since I intimately knew what a runner’s high felt like, I was curious to see if my son would experience the same mental health benefits that running has given to me. 

However, I admit my excitement dipped a little when I was made aware that cross country practices would be held before school, not after, and I was now on the hook for having to drive a cranky 16- year-old to the track at 5 a.m. FIVE A.M. 

I’ll never complain about the hassle of high school sports, again. (Twenty20 @klovestorun)

It’s a hassle when your kids are involved in high school sports

And then when the meets started, it became clear that there were but a handful of locations able to accommodate several high school teams running at once, so that meant driving to locations sometimes 90 minutes away, for races that started at 7 a.m. The only positive part of that was that there would be no late night games on school nights like we had endured during soccer season.

Whose cruel idea is it to start soccer games at 8 p.m. anyway? 

If you’re a parent of a high school athlete, I bet you’re painstakingly familiar with the many inconveniences, aggravating hassles, and abundant sacrifices it all comes with. Being given the privilege and joy of watching your kids play the sports they love is not without expense, both literally and figuratively, and having a houseful of eager team players myself, I have spent many late nights complaining about those sacrifices.

I dare say, and I’m confidant I am not alone on this, that I’ve prayed to the weather Gods for game day rainouts, and even for a late season loss, just so a long season could finally end. Even the most eager sports parents, coaches, and players grow weary of the work and time involved in playing high school sports, and it’s OK to feel some burnout at times.

I would do anything to drive them and sit on the sidelines of a game

And then a global illness happens, and the great irony of society coming to a screeching halt is the fact you find yourself wide awake at 4:30 in the morning, wishing harder than you’ve ever wished before, that you were driving a cranky teenager to cross country practice instead of sheltering in place for the seventy-eleventh day. 

I’m talking to you hockey moms, who right now are wishing they were stuck inside freezing cold ice rinks at 6 a.m clutching hot coffee, and commiserating with fellow hockey moms about how to remove the stench from sweaty pads.

And I’m talking to you baseball mom, wrestling mom, and lacrosse mom. I know all of you right now would give a catcher’s glove and a $400 new bat to be sitting on the bleachers somewhere watching your son or daughter do what they love.

And cheer mom? You’re not left out of this either. Sure, you’ve probably saved a bundle on hair bows, hotel rooms, and eyelashes this spring, but I know if given the chance, you’d happily give your daughter’s left pom pom just to have the chance to scream wildly at her competition you had to travel 1,000 miles to get to. 

Of all the things we’ve been forced to self reflect on during this shelter in place time, one of my biggest regretful grievances (and something I vow to never complain about again) is high school sports. Because when it’s taken out from under you in such fleeting fashion (as soon as I heard NCAA basketball canceled their tournament, I knew things were about to get serious) it’s lack of presence instantly makes you realize all the terrific things that it actually brings to our lives. And I’m not just talking about the great perks it brings to our kids.

I miss the games and the other parents

Sure, being a part of a team has immeasurable social, mental, academic, and physical benefits to teenagers, but team sports also gives some wonderful things to parents. There is an unspoken camaraderie amongst moms and dads on the sidelines that I’ve realized I miss more than I thought I would.

Of course I miss the action of the sports themselves, the competitiveness, the strategies- all of it, but I also long for the incidental intimacy and vulnerability between moms that is often found high up in a set of bleachers on school nights. Watching high school games together with other sports moms has become the equivalent of the old preschool playgroup for me, and right now I miss those relationships just as much as I miss watching my son race across a 5K finish line. 

There is no guarantee at this point that high school sports will start up again in the fall when (and if) the kids go back to school, but I desperately hope it does. As of late, my teens have been bouncing off the walls with the kind of untethered energy that needs an outlet (or field or court!) I for one, will promise to never again pray for a rainout if I can be assured that soon I will have the great privilege of driving a kid to practice at 5 a.m. 

More to Read

Thank You to The Parents Who Cheer for All Our Kids

Saying Goodbye to the Sideline

About Melissa Fenton

Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct librarian at Pasco-Hernando State College. Find her writing all over the internet, but her work mostly on the dinner table. Find her on Facebook 
and on twitter at @melissarunsaway

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