Even if you’ve never intentionally watched ESPN and only happened to be flipping through channels, you’ve no doubt seen a snippet of an inspirational story about some professional athlete recounting the personal story of a hard-scrabble childhood and how a sport — football, basketball, hockey, ice skating, curling, rhythmic gymnastics* — was a life changer.
Well, sports — specifically youth club sports — are gonna be a life ender for me.
I am so done.
When I was growing up, you played sports in school. Period. You stayed after for practice and a big yellow bus chauffeured you to games. The end. There was none of this club sport nonsense calling for monthly fees and out-of-state travel and pricey uniforms with fancy warmup jackets and multiple weeknights of practice.
Over the years, we’ve done the low-key parks and rec programs, which are quite cheap and thus, can be hit or miss. I still remember the dance class No. 1 took at age 4. The very senior teacher — seriously, she had to have been in her 90s — wouldn’t allow parents to watch inside the classroom; you had to peek through a little window. No. 1 complained that they didn’t even get to dance that much but instead, sat and watched their teacher perform for them. There was also the hip-hop class that No. 1 is still traumatized by because she had to take it with her younger sister and the median age of her classmates was 4.6 years old — and she was around 11.
Whatever. She’s inflicted her own share of anxiety and expense on us, first with gymnastics, then horseback riding (so much money and horses are sassy, oversized cats) and then club volleyball, which was not only inconvenient but expensive with twice-monthly trips to tournaments two hours away and regular out-of state events. Thankfully, we moved on from those activities. Bonus: I can guarantee that one overly hard-nosed coach edged us parents out as the main focus of therapy in coming years.
There was also soccer, which was fine but some parents caused too much drama, and then baseball. I don’t care what Tom Hanks says, there is plenty of crying in baseball, typically from the overheated, tired parents stuck in the stands during boring, dusty games played in triple-digit heat.
Today, we are down to only club basketball. It might be the hardest sport yet. Fifteen years after youth sports entered my life, I think I’ve finally hit the tipping point.
Why? Because these teams are always headed up by dads, who are well-intentioned but not especially good planners. I know because I’m married to one. He operates on a need-to-know basis and his need-to-know is, like, 10 minutes before something happens, so he thinks everyone does this. This seems to be standard, dad-operating procedure. Which means, that while we parents did receive ample notice about a tournament — two hours away — we didn’t get any further details like, what time are the games? Does this require an overnight stay? Is it really all three days of the Labor Day weekend?
And, the people who schedule these tournaments apparently also operate on a need-to-know basis and so they wait until six hours before the games begin to share the schedule and then, just to mess with us, they reschedule everything any way.
To wit: On Tuesday, the players were under the impression they’d be playing Saturday and Monday, with no games on Sunday, which allowed us to drive home and come back, such a gift because I know I enjoy nothing more than spending eight hours in my minivan on a holiday weekend. On Friday, the day before the tournament, we find out things have been switched to Saturday and Sunday, which means finding a hotel room in Phoenix over Labor Day weekend, the last break of the summer.
I lost it — right there in front of all 34 people who subscribe to the Heja app that the team uses to communicate. I ranted about the inconvenience of the out-of-town tournaments, the lateness of the schedule change and the high cost of butter, that last thing had nothing to do with the other things but I was on a roll. I think I could probably use my texted tantrum as an audition for “Real Crazy-Ass Housewives of Tucson.”
Contributing to my lack of tolerance for this nonsense was that I was solo parenting that entire week and that meant that when it came to the kids, instead of man-to-man defense, I had to play zone, which is harder. In parenting anyway. I don’t know if it is for basketball or not because I still haven’t quite caught on to the nuances of the sport.
In the end, I won. My prize: driving eight hours rather than springing for a hotel room and going through the trouble of finding someone on short notice who could watch all our high-maintenance dogs. Things were looking pretty good on Monday after the boys won their 1 p.m. game. According to the schedule (snort), we had a 3 p.m. championship game. Then the gym owner said the final game had to be be played at 7 p.m. because of a scheduling issue with the other team.
I’ll fast-forward through the angst and f-bombs that little announcement caused and I’m pretty we are banned for life at this particular court center because the gym owners did not like the hardline our coaches took about sticking to the schedule (I’m totally taking credit for that). So, we won — by forfeit — but the gym people, who knew at 2 p.m. that the other team couldn’t make a 3 p.m. game, made us wait until then out of spite.
But, there may be a bright shiny spot in all this — and it’s not just the glint of a quarter, which is all that’s left in my wallet after paying to gas up twice in two days — I think my little meltdown may have done some good because now, miraculously, three months’ worth of games were just posted on our app. And it’s September. Advanced planning. Whoa. There is hope for the world.
*OK, no one’s ever had anything positive to say about rhythmic gymnastics, I just wanted to see if I could spell it. Apparently, I can.