Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with us adults. We can take any fun, innocent kid’s game and mess it up really good. Don’t believe me; well, then just go to any event where kids are competing for anything and watch the “responsible adults” and how they act. Please, don’t think I am exempting myself from my own disdain; I have over-reacted and felt the hangover of self-disappointment the next morning.
There is nothing that says summer in the heartland more than a good baseball or softball game in the summer. The cheering, smell of popcorn in the air, freshly mowed grass and cooling of the air about dusk, it doesn’t get any better on a summer’s night. I love baseball and softball, they are both great games.
They are just games. Nothing about a game of baseball, softball, football, volleyball or soccer is really all that important. Yes, this is a big step for me, I am a huge sport junky, but in the scheme of life, they just aren’t all that important. No matter how important it might seem to us adults at that particular moment in time. More than once I have asked my kids and the kids I have coached over the years the following series of questions.
What are softball/baseball/ football (you get the point, insert said sport here)? The correct answer is a game. Why do we play games? The correct answer would be because they are fun. What should you do when something you do for fun isn’t fun anymore? The final correct answer would be to find something else that is fun. When a game is not fun anymore, it probably shouldn’t be played. That is where we adults come in. We tend to not make games fun for our kids.
This axiom also applies to other kids events such as livestock shows, dance recitals and peddle pulls. Over the years it seems as though we adults have evolved into hyper-critical, over-achieving, over analytical ogres. If you don’t believe me, try going to a competitive event sometime as a non-biased spectator and watch the adults.
I have had the pleasure of judging many livestock shows over the years. I judge county fairs because I love working with the kids and at every show something happens to remind me of why I love working with kids. However, most of the time something also happens to remind me that parents and adults have lost sight of what is important. I have often thought, to gain perspective, everyone should have to officiate, referee or judge a youth competitive event. Believe me when I say, the judge can see you directing from the side of the arena, they see you snatch the lead rope out of your child’s hands and they see you throw your hat with disgust and it is not very flattering.
I know how easy it is to get caught up in the moment. It happens to me more often than I would like to admit. Between being highly competitive myself and a big fan of my own kids, I have let myself get carried away. I am fortunate to have a good circle of friends who let me blow off steam, patiently listen and then kindly remind me of what is important.
Am I against competition? Absolutely not, the real world is about competition. Am I against learning to play the game right? Again absolutely not, anything you do is worth doing it right and doing things right is more fun. But in the end we need to learn the art of good, clean competition and being able to take pride in doing your best.
One of my favorite pictures is of my daughter and one of her friends from another town. The picture is of both of them, each with a different uniform, arms around the other’s shoulders, holding their medals. Honestly, I don’t remember which one of them got first and which one has the second place medal, you can’t tell from the picture. All I remember is that the game was well-played and both teams left the field feeling good about their effort. That afternoon was a lot of fun and serves as a great reminder of why we play games.
As we go about this summer, we all need to take a deep breath, relax and remember why we spend time taking our kids to events. We are there because (hopefully) it is something that is important to our kids, something that teaches them worthwhile life lessons, gives them good healthy physical activity and most importantly is fun. So pour another ice tea, sit back in that lawn chair, cheer positively to your heart’s content, and enjoy the game for what it is, fun. After all, it is just a game.