I think the temperature was around 104 degrees. Or at least that's what it felt like. I don't remember any kind of breeze at all. It was just miserably hot. As I sat in the uncomfortable, scratchy canvas portable lawn chair, feeling like my skin was literally melting off my bones, it suddenly dawned on me that what I was doing was absolutely ridiculous. Correction--not what I was doing. It was what I was expecting my 8 year old son to do, while I sat on the sidelines and cheered him on, that was ridiculous.
Yes, we had applied the sunscreen and brought more with us to apply at the half since he would surely sweat it off. Yes, we had a cooler full of cold water bottles. And, yes, we were shouting all the positive, motivational cheers. But as he and his team mates huffed and puffed and turned beat red under the blazing sun, I had to wonder if the heat hadn't gone to our brains.
It was my son's first (and last) year playing for a competitive soccer league. He belonged to a small team. There were only 2 subs. Was it a coincidence that on that horribly hot day, only half the team showed up? Were those absent families really on vacation or were they enjoying ice cream sundaes at the air conditioned Dairy Queen?
Anyway, at the coach's discretion, we played two men down. They had six on the field. We had four. I still wonder what kind of win-at-all-cost man coached the other team, seeing as how he could have played with four players, too, but didn't. Our coach explained that he wanted the boys to learn to never give up and never give in. To always give your best. To never walk away from a challenge, no matter how tough it appeared.
At first, the message seemed to be being heard, loud and clear. The boys stepped up and played hard, knowing they were certainly at a disadvantage. But with the opposing team making periodic substitutions so their advantaged players could rest and cool off, our boys quickly lost steam. And then lost heart.
I guess this Roaring Mom believes that sports should be fun first. And on that blistering hot day, my son and his team mates were NOT having fun. The parents were NOT having fun. And even our coach, with all his noble philosophies, did NOT seem to be having fun. We were uncomfortable, cranky, sweaty, and sunburned. At least that's how I remember it.
I've attended dozens of soccer games since, but that one is still one of the most memorable. I still wonder if maybe we all should have forfeited and joined our traitorous teammates for banana splits. Finally, I've decided--yes. That's exactly what we should have done. It would have made for great memories. And maybe even provided great photos for a scrap book page. The important thing is--it would have been fun!
But, as you know, I'm not very experienced in the world of all things boy. Curious for a father's opinion, I called on Manly Man Dad Friend who advises me on these issues. It turns out, Manly Man Dad agrees with our coach. Not only that, but he agrees with the opposing coach, too. Our players who showed up should get to play and the other team should not be penalized because half our team wasn't there. Furthermore, not only did he agree with the coaches, he seemed to think the decision was a no-brainer and that the situation was no big deal.
I didn't buy it.
So today, I asked my son (who is now 11 and happily playing rec league) if he remembered that game. His answer:
"Oh, yeah. It was me and Jake and Cameron and some other kid whose name I can't remember."
"So what do you remember about how you felt that day?"
"I felt great!"
"You did? You didn't feel bad that you were out there having to play with 2 less men than the other team?"
"Nope. I felt great because we were trying our best even though we didn't have enough guys."
How embarrassing! I have roared about the unfair nature of that game more than once in the last three years. I guess sometimes being a parent calls for quiet, especially when learning life lessons concerning things I apparently know nothing about, like how to think like a man. Guess I've discovered another rule for the How To Raise A Boy Manual.
So, how about it, Moms? Am I alone in the universe in my initial reaction? Or are you all right there with me, heading to the D.Q. as fast as you can?