I am not an athlete. This isn’t a case of “I used to play sports but don’t any longer,” it’s that, excluding forced participation in school PE classes, I have never, ever played a team sport.
I’ve never sat on a bench cheering on my teammates and waiting for my turn, never had any performance anxiety because the team was relying on my skills, never looked up to a coach for guidance and instruction, never knew what athletic camaradery felt like…none of it.
What I have done is spent the last 15 years as a team parent and something recently occurred to me:
I’m on an athletic team now.
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Team Parent doesn’t mean “a parent of a kid on the team” it means “a team of parents.”
Some teams are better at this than others, “parent” isn’t always a literal parent, but there’s always a very important piece of equipment behind the bench or dugout.
Schlepping kids to practices and games? Very important.
Writing the checks for (everything required to play a sport)? Super-duper important.
Encouraging the team, win or lose, during and after the game? Kinda important.
I had always thought that having a kid participate in sports was a lone parenting activity but now I see it differently. Apologies for using clichés but, just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a parent team to raise a sports team.
How many times does a member of Team Parent have a kid not their own in the car? Team work!
How many times does Team Parent sit in groups to cheer our kids on in unison? Team work!
Earlier this spring, back when it felt like winter, I was at a baseball tournament and saw several lines of parents sitting in small, portable tents to keep the weather off. I thought these were so genius that I had one on its way to my house (thank you, internet shopping, I love you) before the first pitch.
When it arrived, I pulled up a YouTube video to learn how to set it up (very easy) and take it down (not so much) so I didn’t look like a fool at a game (unsuccessful). Then I imagined sitting in it at that game.
The shade and weather protection would be great, the sides are mesh so I can talk to people around me, but would I really use it? No, probably not.
Did I beat myself with buyer’s remorse or return it? Nope. The overriding thought in my head: “What a great way to contain the team tots, they’ll love this!”
We parents work together supporting the other members of our parent team. We step in without hesitation and hold babies or entertain other people’s children; we have the extra Tylenol/Benadryl/sunblock; we make snack bar runs and share our cooler contents with anyone who wants them.
We do this instinctivly, not intellectually, without hesitation.
Is this self-importance? Maybe a bit, but I think we members of Team Parent are aware that our contributions are in the background.
We’re aware that sometimes emotions (and colorful language) happen, that there are times we really don’t want to be there and that sometimes cliques form. These are all areas of improvement for us, we do need to work on them, but every good team is a consistent work in progress, right?
The realization that I’m on a team hasn’t made playing sherpa with the rolling cooler, tote bag, lawn chair and shelter-tent easier, and it hasn’t made the long drive home after a painful loss any less challenging. But it has made me look at my teammates in the stands with a feeling of unity…isn’t that the basis of any winning team?
Susan Vollenweider lives in the Northland (Go Warriors!) To listen to the history podcasts that she co-hosts or to read more of her writing visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com.