Thursday, September 17, 2009

Confessions of a tennis mom

My daughter’s played a lot of sports through the years, and I’ve enjoyed passively watching them, not concerned about the score, just making sure she is having fun, and it’s not my week to bring snacks.

I made fun of the coaches who rushed to recruit her for their softball teams after she made a double play by catching the ball in the air and then tagging the base - at the age of five. Apparently, had she known she could have made a triple play. I’ve never seen grown men more excited. And who knew Little League coaches have business cards?

I’ve laughed at soccer moms (Why doesn’t anyone use the term “Soccer Dad?”) who run along the side lines with their child, shouting “encouragement.” When my daughter was eight, she had a teammate who received $20 for every goal. Does that make her a pro, and will it ruin her chance of going to the Olympics? Just curious.

Then there was gymnastics.

“She’s going to be too tall to be a gymnast,” my husband said, when he heard I enrolled her.

“She’s six years old,” I reminded him. “She likes to do cartwheels and flips and get a stamp on her hand after class.”

Sometimes, we, as parents, get way ahead of ourselves when it comes to our kids and sports. And, now, on the cusp of Georgia-girl Melanie Oudin’s outstanding performance in the U.S. Open, my daughter is playing tennis.- my sport. The sport I’ve played for 15 years in order to become mediocre; the sport I wished I would have started when I was her age; the sport in which she naturally excels. And, suddenly, I don’t just want her to have fun and develop skills that she can use for a lifetime - I want her to win.

Of course, I would never dare let on. Truthfully, I am thankful that she is a healthy child and can play. Yet, there’s a part of me - the part that was always picked last for Red Rover, the part that didn’t make the basketball team, the part that always got tagged out at first, the part that failed the broad jump, the part that couldn’t climb the rope to the top in the gym – that really, really wants her to kick butt!

But, if not, I will hug her and be just as happy because either way I am proud. I know what it is like to lose; I know what it is like to cheer for three seasons for a team that never won a game; I know what it is like to try and fail and vow to work harder, and, ultimately, that is not a bad thing. It shapes who you are, the person you become. Not to mention, it makes the wins in life that much sweeter.

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