Thursday, 09 June 2016 09:20

Being a first time sports parent opens an array of emotions

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When I was 15, the last play of my minor sports career was me getting decked by a taller hockey player who knocked me out cold after I tried to run him over the boards in my small town rink in Saskatchewan.

It was a vicious hockey game as it was the season-concluding, home tournament's championship A final. Us, Assiniboia vs. Central Brutte... errr... Butte.
To a bantam-aged hockey player with screaming fans, especially of the female type, so getting knocked out was embarrassing. But, I also felt bad because I did it literally right in front of my dad and felt I let him down. I was a lot meaner in those days and I dished out a lot of crunching bodychecks in my time. In the sportsworld way, it was actually rather karma fitting.
The extended fist of my opponent to my helmet as I came flying in was a well-deserved K.O. by the much taller Central Butte winger who left me with a swelled eye and a concussion. Yay me.
My dad, who was on the bench at the time as our team's GM, could only watch as he spatula-ed me up off the ice, which wasn't an easy thing considering I was tipping the scales at more than 220 at the time.
I looked up at him and said something to the effect of wanting to get back out there. I don't remember much from that after the bench but I do remember him hugging me and told me to sit, I was done.
He looked sad and never understood why.
It wasn't my dad who was looking like a coin bouncing off the pavement — at least that the description my younger brother who was in the stands described — there was a pride there.
Fast forward 31 years and one of my twin seven year old boys is playing soccer. No training for him, as he never played any organized sports before.
For his age, he's a good athlete and can run really fast (like my brother) and is very competitive (like me). What he doesn't have is the knowledge or the skillset yet. I go out with him to kick the ball around and we play some mock games and just get out there with him for both of us to run and get some exercise.
I feel bad or guilty in a way because I want him to learn soccer skills as best he can. Wrist shots from the blueline — yes, “Bend it like Beckham on a corner kick” — no.
I’m glad he has the coach he does. A very kind man, who himself has a boy on the team, he’s patient and is more worried they learn skills, understand the game and most importantly have fun, far more than winning at any cost.  I notice a few parents getting ticked the team is losing so much, but considering much of the team are first year players, seeing them try and improve their skills is good enough for me. I want to be able to help his skill level, but I really can’t, other than a few things. But I think my son appreciates I’m trying and just sharing time and the experience is good enough.
When I was three, my dad, much to the chagrin of my mom, I remember my dad flooding our tiny front yard and then our back yard for three years after that.
He would always try to help me enjoy hockey and curling even though he never skated at all, let alone played hockey or curled. He knew I was keen on practising as much as I could.
Not blessed with the physical tools, I had my (limited success) because of my instincts, ridiculous competitiveness and most importantly, my love for the game, something which was helped by my dad with encouragement.
Now as I watch my son play soccer for the first time, I totally understand the pride one gets as a parent watch a child compete in sports. My kids have been in different school or church holiday or school choirs and watching them was a real treat. But for competitive people, whether the child is in a Rotary Music festival, a spelling bee or a soccer game, there's something that wells up inside a parent which is difficult to explain. It's like you're right there with them.
I understand being competitive and them wanting to do well, but I can’t understand when parents, scream at officials, coaches, players or even other parents. It’s not like you can out there and do it for them. If their safety is in danger, sure but you trying to relive youth by complaining about something you don’t like?
Competitiveness can be sometimes overwhelming, but really? Even at under 8 soccer — rec-league no less — I can here nearby coaches from other teams of similar or younger age groups yelling and screaming for them to run harder, not in an encouraging way but more of a “hurry up and score” way.
I get it, you want them to do well. Hey. I was cheering loud when my boy scored twice in a game...which is in a non-competitive, soccer game...for 7-8 a game they lost by five goals. Game 7 of the Stanley Cup it wasn’t.
But he did it and I was proud of him. His team has won like one game all year, but to watch him get out there is really fulfilling to watch. There's pride and while there may be some strands of truth to the old joke of 'living vicariously through children",  I definitely don't envision him to be the next Messi, Wayne Rooney or Renaldo, I understand over-exuberant parents more.
I just wish some wouldn’t take it so seriously at this stage.
If you’re thinking about getting them started when they are three years old and having them experts by the time they are eight, forget it.
The chances of them becoming pros are small. Sure, get them outside and playing, that’s commendable.
 To do it so they can become a professional athlete, with a professional contract earning millions of dollars... you just keep buying those lottery tickets.
I see on Facebook where a lot of my high school and university friends will post things about what their kids accomplish and they're deservedly proud.
I am proud of both my children too as anyone who is Facebook friends with me can attest. I salute those parents who have given up a lot to help their kids along in their pursuits: whether taking them to 4-H or art competitions, helping them with their technique in whatever discipline they are practising.
Although my dad is now having health and major issues, he can always remember what we did as kids and some of those sporting events. He doesn't talk much about that time I got decked in that hockey game, preferring to talk about some of the more fun times, which there were many.
I'm beginning to understand now what he was feeling, even though he wasn't an outwardly emotional guy. While I have a ways to go before both of my kids grow and compete in whatever  discipline they're in. I just hope the end of their young "sporting careers" is a little happier for them than it was for me.
As one of those sayings which appears on Facebook or Twitter goes... enjoy the journey.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor