By: Emma Johnston
As I was growing up I had three younger brothers who played hockey, this means I have spent many, many hours of my life at arenas. By the time I was 16 I was a pro at dressing little children in hockey gear and tying skates and buying slushies. And I vowed, during my teenaged years that I would never, ever become a sports parent. I had seen what those parents did; waking up early for 6:00am practices, spending hours sitting on cold plastic seats, eating canteen french-fries. There wasn’t much worse. And as my brothers got older, if nothing else would turn a person off being a sports parents, the smell of drying hockey equipment scattered across the house certainly would!
My family, I vowed, would be into more refined things – fine art, playing the violin, perhaps join a choir… Not competitive sports!
By Tuesday of this week I had already spent four hours watching my sons play baseball. That’s right, four hours of baseball, by Tuesday, in November! I had always thought baseball was a summer sport. But in the world of competitive ball it runs 12 months a year!
And, this week, as I lugged baseball bags that are big enough to hold a human being, and tossed the 7th baseball glove out of my way as I looked for the right one – two very real things dawned on me…
The First realization was: Never say never. My pact to not be a sports parent was broken by the time my children were 6 years old. My house now boasts 6 baseball bats, 9 baseball gloves, every size of batting glove, helmets in a rainbow of colours, along with jerseys, jocks, baseball pants and league approved belts. We have 11 Blue Jays baseball hats, a Blue Jays blue bedroom and enough paraphernalia to open our own store. I spend hours every week watching baseball, playing catch, looking up baseball diamonds and booking hotels. I sigh, as I realize I’m a sports parent through and through.
However, as I watched my kids play this week, doing drills, running their hardest and practicing their slides – I had my second realization; a realization that came a little more begrudgingly.
That there’s actually a whole lot I (the parent) can learn from my wildly competitive children.
When I load my kids into the car at 8:30pm in the evening and I’m exhausted and hungry and ready for a glass of wine, they are running around – grinning ear to ear. When all I want to do is throw on a pair of pajamas and watch Netflix – they are happily chatting about their plays and what the coach said to them and how fast they pitched the ball. It’s as if they enjoyed running as hard as they could for hours on end… Every second of these long, grueling practices and hours and hours, day after day of games and tournaments, all just make my kids so much happier?!
And as I stood, scratching my head and pondering why anyone would find enjoyment in these kinds of things, I realized I’m not actually that different. In fact, I’d wager that many of us feel the same way. Perhaps not about baseball or hockey or athletics of any kind, but about that high we receive, that weird sense of accomplishment, the surge of energy we get when we’ve busted our backsides. When we’ve given something our all, pushed ourselves beyond our normal limits and extended ourselves to the point that we thought we couldn’t extend any more – and then conquered.
Whether we bust it raising a family and keeping a home, or ploughing fields or milking cows. Whether we push ourselves academically, learning and researching and studying, or whether we do it building cars, or owning our own businesses or pushing our bodies to perform at a higher level. There’s something deeply satisfying about competing with ourselves (not others) but with ourselves, with our own personal best – and then winning. Not just the act of working hard, but the act of pushing ourselves to be better, of going the next step, of training our minds or bodies to do what they haven’t done before.
At the kids’ baseball practices, they don’t remain stagnant – their skills need to improve. Each week they need to run a little faster, throw a little harder, do a few more crunches… and they love it!
I see the results. I see the hard work they put in, I see their bodies growing stronger, their eyes becoming keener. I see better abilities and I see happy children. They are growing and developing and pushing themselves to be the best they can be.
I want to do the same. I want to push myself. To every day get a little better, a little faster or smarter or kinder. To say “I see you – Emma of yesterday, and I raise you one day better.” Because I find great joy in beating the me of yesterday. To be my best, and then, the next day, try and be a bit better. To never just be satisfied with where I’m at but to do my best to continuously be growing, developing, learning and improving.
It won’t always happen. But I watch my kids do it every day. They go out and bust it. They practice hour after hour after hour. They plan and make strategies and push themselves to the limit. If nothing else, being a sports parent has taught me that I have a lot to learn from my kids. That their commitment, dedication and continuous improvement is to be respected… imitated.
So today, my goal, is to learn from my children and push myself to be, just, a little better than I was yesterday.