Thursday, July 11, 2013

There's No Feeling Sorry in Soccer

I almost can't watch NCAA March Madness or Superbowl or NBA Finals with my son anymore. He gets so mad at me. Inevitably, when it gets down to the final seconds, he'll turn to me. "Don't say it, mom! Do NOT say it! Don't say you feel sorry for the losing team."

I can't help myself. I do feel sorry for the losing team--even if the losing team just lost to the Jayhawks.

Yet, as much as I feel sorry for the losing team, I have yet to figure out how to parent losing. It's easier with my Drama Queen Daughters. When they don't get the part, it's easier to understand that maybe they didn't fit the "type". They were too tall, too short, too pretty. It's like this--an actress can be the most beautiful, most talented, most experienced blue puzzle piece on the planet, but if the director is looking for a yellow puzzle piece, she's not going to get the part. So they go on and find the director looking of the perfect blue puzzle piece. Not that there aren't Pity Parties. After all, what's a Drama Queen without her Pity Party?

The analogy doesn't work with athletes, though. When the buzzer sounds, one team was better than another. Period. That's it. Somebody loses and somebody wins. It doesn't matter what color your puzzle piece is. Somebody was clearly better than you.

So here's what happens when a Roaring Stage Mom tries to be Roaring Soccer Mom. Second Place Kid saunters to the side lines. Roaring Mom smiles. "You did great!" Dirty glare from Kid. "I'm so proud of you." More Dirty Glares. "I could tell you were giving it your all!" Huff and Glare. "You don't have any reason to hang your head." Finally, a verbal response, "Mom, we lost." As if Mom wasn't watching the game or something. "Yes, but YOU played great." Another, huffier response, "I don't want to talk about it!" Mom goes in for the hug. "Seriously, Mom!" Huff and Stomp Off.

I have probably spent twice as much time at soccer practices, games, tournaments, try-outs, conditionings as I have at theatre activities. You'd think I would have figured this out by now. No consolations for the Second Place Kid. No Pity Parties. No Puzzle Piece Analogies. No feeling sorry for the losing team. At least not immediately.

World Cup Champion Brandi Chastain, in her book It's Not About the Bra, says it's about finding balance. "One of the first things I learned about losing is not to overreact to the emotion of the moment." I've never been good at not overreacting to the emotion of the moment. I've cried in almost every darkened theatre my kids performed in and, more embarrassingly, on plenty of soccer sidelines as well. But my Soccer Kids rarely do--not on the sidelines. They celebrate victories and accept losses. Then they refocus, reload, and reclaim success as quickly as possible.

And if you think about it, that's what the Drama Queens do, too. It's the Roaring Moms who are left watching, helpless, from the wings--cheering, crying, praising, praying--win or lose. In fact, I think the Roaring Mom has the harder job.

So when the World Series rolls around this year, I won't tell my son I feel sorry for the losing team. I'll tell him I feel sorry for their Moms!

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