It’s Spring. For many of us, that means sports. For some of us (particularly those of us with an unrelenting belief that there are more than 24 hours in a day, and inflated perception of our own ability to be in multiple places at the same time OR a particularly high-energy kid who we are hoping to live with peacefully) that can mean A LOT of sports. In spite of the high probability of each of our children landing full scholarships and professional contracts (no), the state still expects the cherubs to go to school as well. (The state, as it turns out, is a huge buzzkill.) This means that most evening nights, and approximately 346% of our weekend hours, are spent in pursuit of athletic excellence. For our kids, I mean. (I can’t be the only one surreptitiously eating french fries and slurping root beer while feeding them protein bars and coconut water…😉)
I can’t do the math, but I can tell you that 346% of our weekend hours adds up to a whole lot of weekend hours. And, just like there are many different types of players on every team, there are lots of different spectating-styles too. Spend a little time on the sideline and you’ll see what I mean…some people are pretty laid back, others are not. Somewhere along the line, I began to rank all of us in my mind…on a scale of 1 to 10.
If you are a level 1 spectator, you are not watching the game. At all. Ever. You are there for emotional support and because your kid cannot drive. You probably bring a book to the game, a fully charged phone, and definitely a coffee…and you are always surprised when the last whistle blows because you were totally engrossed in your own world. When the game is over, you ask the parent next to you who won. You are chill. You are zen. You are a 1.
If you are a level 10, you also, very often, miss parts of the game. But, in your case, that’s because the ref has thrown you out of the game. While you are there, you watch every single play with laser intensity and you are not afraid to voice your opinions…to the coach on the other side of the field, to the ref and sometimes (shudder) to the children playing on the field. You don’t limit yourself to yelling at your own child…any child will do.
Most of us fall somewhere in between these 2 extremes. The problem occurs when you have a mismatch. If you are a 3 (sometimes tries to communicate telepathically with the coach), you should not sit next to an 8 (loudly criticizing the coach’s subbing strategy with those around you). It will be uncomfortable. For both of you. The 8 will want you to agree with them…but you can’t. Because you’re a 3 and so you haven’t formed an opinion on that. Because you don’t really care.
I was out 2 weeks ago to celebrate the start of the spring soccer season with 2 of my favorite soccer mamas. Seems every team our kids have played on has at least one level 9 parent…and often a 10. We all fall somewhere in the 4-7 range…and so we talked strategy..on how to avoid the mismatch. The 10 is singing his note and doing his thing…we are not disparaging his style…but also there is the volume issue and the anger thing…and the 10 is not fun for us. We have learned this the hard way. Over and over. A few delicious cocktails in, we developed our strategy for the season…here are our tips:
- Leave your chair at home. Chairs are for suckers. A chair means commitment to your spot…and that means listening to the person who sidles up next to you once you’re all settled. Maybe that’s good. Maybe that’s bad…but by the time you find out, you’re all-in for the next hour plus.
- Bring your camera. Not a photographer? Fake it. Sure, some of us like pulling out the long lens for pictures of junior’s winning shot, but, over the years, I have had a couple of parents tell me that the camera is their tool. Things get too heated on the sideline? Off to snap a few pics. They may take pictures, they may not…who knows? No one has to feel bad and they get a little quiet time. Win/win.
- Park the car in a bad spot. This one is particularly valuable for baseball. Excusing yourself to “move your car” guarantees that you’ll be returning from a different direction…and can choose a new spot. If it’s sunny, you may need to “find shade”. Because it’s baseball, the sun moves and you’ll be at the field for many, many hours, this one is the gift that keeps on giving.
- Feel free to employ any and all of the tactics you learned back when you first started dating. The fake phone call, the urgent text, the forgotten “something” in the car. No holds barred.
The name of the game, after all, is to ENJOY the game. Find your people, join your tribe…and do whatever it is that you do. Whether thats a crowd of level 1’s in the corner at their very own book-swap, or a crowd of level 10’s screaming over their shoulders as they’re escorted to the parking lot…you’re singing your note. Play on.