An Ode to Youth Sports … Or, Yay Go Team and Here’s All My Money!

Dani Rojas knew what he was talking about.

Sports is life. 


Are life?

This is weird. It’s kinda like how some people treat plural band names as more than one and others as a single entity: Los Lobos is coming in January. Los Lobos are coming in January.

Ugh. I dunno. 

I got it! Sports = life.

Problem solved.

Of course Dani, the enthusiastic character from “Ted Lasso,” actually said, “Futbol is life!” 

Well, until he sent a soccer ball hurtling straight at a skinny, defenseless greyhound and then he discovers futbol is more like death, which, as a former soccer parent, I can assure you that is indeed the case when you’re pacing the sidelines to warm up because it’s 25 degrees and you can’t feel your feet. Actually, baseball is worse. Hot, boring, dusty. Scary, especially when they segue from coach’s pitch to throwing a very hard ball erratically and intentionally at other children. It’s also ridiculously sloooooooooooow. Three innings is more than enough baseball. Nine is just excessive. 

It’s fair — I’m allowed to judge. I’ve watched it all: soccer, T-ball, baseball, flag football, volleyball, gymnastics, track and field (10 seconds of excitement, 3.5 hours of zoning out), horseback riding and, of course, basketball. 

Now I’m staring down the end of youth sports.

I’m not sure how to feel.

So many memories. 

Like the time we discovered — the weekend of a tournament — that someone (JOE!!) thought the bag in the back of the car containing cleats and shin guards was a Goodwill donation. There were plenty of extra guards around to borrow but let me just say that trying to buy cleats, at the end of the season on the same day you have a game, is no easy feat. And beggars can’t be choosers*, which is how the messy kid who should never wear any color lighter than black ended up with blindingly white cleats. At least all the other parents on the team were amused, and No. 3’s nickname for the rest of the season was “Shooooooooeeeeees!” Bellowed exactly like that — long and loud.

So many injuries.

Broken fingers, busted toes. That time No. 1 went down like a sack of potatoes during a volleyball game her sophomore year, and we thought she’d smacked her head into the net pole only to discover she twisted her ankle, a high sprain that kept her off the court for months.

That other time that No. 3, who spent a fair amount of time recklessly throwing his body into walls and other players and somersaulting on the basketball court like Mary Lou Retton, suffered a grotesque knee injury. His dad, who was filming the game, watched the moment in an endless loop, like it was a Zapruder film. 

“There,” he pointed and shouted, watching in slo-mo. “That’s awful! Could be his ACL…”

He worst-case scenarioed it over and over and over until an actual orthopedic doctor diagnosed a hyperextended knee. 

Ah, sports. So much money and drama. Triumph and heartache. Snack-bar duty.

Team dinners.

What possesses people to think that trying to parade a group of 50 sweaty kids and fried parents into a BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse at 8:50 p.m. will turn out just fine?

So many fundraisers. I do not miss selling Butter Braids.

And, of course, so many life lessons.  

Dealing with sports does teach you how to get through life. You have to figure out how to handle egos on every side of the bench and figure out how to get different personalities to come together as a team, how to cope with obnoxious parents, be equally graceful as a winner and loser, gut out injuries, and figure out how to survive coaches whose style is more Bobby Knight than Ted Lasso. 

The night No. 3’s team played its arch nemesis in hostile territory my stomach was in knots all day. 

No. 3, being who he is and confident of himself and his team, assured us they’d win handily. Instead, the game was a series of terrible calls by the refs (in my completely unbiased opinion) and shots that rimmed out. No. 3 had a chance to tie it up with a last-second shot. It didn’t fall. He did, to the ground, as the buzzer went off.

Later, as he rehashed the game with us, going over the bad fouls and turnovers and how the other team made every single bucket, he was matter of fact about the loss and that last shot. “They played really well. I don’t know, I missed that one three early, but then every time I went up, it felt right. I knew they were gonna go in and they did. It was great I got the ball, and I was able to set up so fast.”

He shrugged.

“It is what it is. I was really happy I was allowed to take that last shot.”

I guess my husband was right. Just this one and only one time.

There used to be this volleyball dad who would yell from the stands, “VELOCITY!” I loved it. I think the cheer all of us parents yell in our heads is “RESILIENCY!”

How often did I complain about the expense and the time and the heartache — MINE — from seeing my kids disappointed or angry or unjustly fouled, my husband would just say that this is good for them, this is how you learn to handle life.   

Honestly, I don’t know how I got this far. I definitely didn’t play enough sports. Maybe I need to go take up pickleball. 

*I wanted to type “shoesers” so badly, but I reined myself in.

1 thought on “An Ode to Youth Sports … Or, Yay Go Team and Here’s All My Money!

  1. You’re sweet with the shoutout! 💕
    What a joy it is watching the kiddos do their thing! It’s definitely bittersweet when they play on senior night. I’m excited to see what’s next for your young man. Congratulations to him on a great season!
    Btw, pickleball? Let me know! 📞 👂

    Liked by 1 person

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