Why sports parents need to win

Originally posted on I Love To Watch You Play


You’ve seen these parents on the sidelines. The shriekers. The jumpers. The heavy clappers.

The fist-pumpers. Sure, they annoy you, but what if you’d be happier being more like them?

I know, I know. It’s just a game. They’re only kids. They’ll forget about it by bedtime (especially if you stop for ice cream on the way home).

But hear me out.

Maybe those it’s-only-a-game parents are missing something important: adults need wins. Think about it. We lose a lot. Passed over for the promotion. Worn down by the salesman. Out-maneuvered for the parking space. Defeated by the neighbor’s edging. I mean, without a treat in our hands, sometimes even our pets put us in second place.

And when we do win, it’s not like we can really celebrate.

The boss picked my idea and not yours! 

I got the last cup, sucka! Get brewing!

Loser! My checkout line’s moving faster than yours!

Yeah, dream on. Like good little grown-ups, we celebrate on the down low, then go replace our air filter, take our antacids, and get to bed at a decent hour.

Now imagine having the freedom to react the way your body’s been begging you to. Welcome to the sidelines.

Take your seat at a game and enter another dimension of reality. The first thing you’ll feel is a degree of confidence you truly don’t deserve. Then, the internal filter that has faithfully kept you from losing your job, your loved ones, and your constitutional freedoms, well that disappears quicker than a bag of kettle corn. Finally, your real superpowers kick in. Immunity from social norms. Resistance to angry stares. And the belief that you can change the outcome of a play if your comment is just loud/rude/whiney/funny/snarky enough.

I know this place exists because I’ve been there. Some days, my cheers are pure and direct and 100 percent connected to the game in front of me. Let’s face it, there are few joys quite like watching your child’s team beat their biggest rival, seeing your kid kick butt against the coach who said he didn’t have what it takes, or denying scoring opportunities to the team with the cowbell mom and airhorn dad. It’s  justifiably jump-out-of-your-chair excitement.

Other times I arrive at the game already spring-loaded. That hour on the sideline becomes the spinning-HIIT-dance-cardio that my body needs to burn off the losses I’ve already suffered that day and restore my own internal balance. Maybe it was work or traffic or the game shorts I spent an hour finding because my kid swore they weren’t in his bag (which, of course, they were, along with everything else he “lost” this season). Or maybe it was the mail, the dog, the news, the parking lot, the text from the bank, or the coffee I spilled on my favorite shirt while waiting on hold with their customer service desk.

All I know is that every win on the field — each deft pass, smart tackle, game-winning goal, or call the ref makes for our team — is a legitimate reason to whoop and shout and do a little dance. Each game-time celebration cancels out another snafu or setback. Sure, my neighbor’s edging will still look like the flex that it is when I get home, but after I’ve sashayed down the sideline a few times, I promise you I won’t care.

Feeling and expressing the excitement of winning isn’t just good in the moment, though. It’s taught me a lot about myself overall. Like I don’t need to smile more. I need to cheer more. I need to clap — loudly — and explode with the kind of excitement that catapults me out of my chair. I need to hoot and to holler — not because I want others to hear me, but because I want to hear myself shout about things that are good. I need to high-five the person next to me, even if it’s the dad who never uses hand sanitizer after the porta-john.

Celebrating my kid’s wins on the field helps me let go of the day’s issues, worries, and what-ifs, and reminds me that life is full of reasons to be happy. Okay the cartwheels might have been a bit much, but did you see that play?! WOOOOOO-HOOOOOO!







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