With Memorial Day behind us, summer is on the brain. But for us sports moms, we first have to get through the last week or so of spring sports.
My friend, George, gave me a piece of advice when my oldest was born. It went something like this: Don’t let your kids play a sport where the competition is called a meet instead of a game. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now, nearly 12 years later, I understand.
Both my boys started playing organized sports around age 3. I use the term “organized sports” loosely because at that age, it’s more like organized chaos with post-game snacks. My youngest likes to shadow his older brother, so both boys started their youth sports careers with soccer, tee ball and basketball. Soccer lasted only two seasons for each of them before they discovered football and tee ball progressed to kid-pitch baseball, but was ultimately replaced by lacrosse. We are, and have been, a football/basketball/lacrosse household since 2009. I’m good with this because each of these sports is physical, fast-paced and fun. And more importantly, at least according to my wise elder, George, each uses a game clock.
For a parent, the game clock is your best friend. You know exactly what you’re getting into and can plan accordingly. Thirty minutes for pre-game warm ups followed by an hour, maybe two, of competition and then … Game over. Done. Finished. On to the next thing. What’s better than that? I have become spoiled by the game clock. Even dependent on it … Until this past March when both my boys decided to add track and field to their spring sports repertoire. You see, track and field competitions — like swimming and gymnastics — are called meets, not games. George warned me about this and now I know why:
- It’s an all day affair. Track meets can last anywhere from 4-to-6 hours, depending on the number of teams and competitors entered as well as how fast or slow the kids run. Oy!
- You must be prepared to sit and wait. I don’t sit much during the day. I don’t like to be idle and I’m rather impatient. This trifecta of personality traits makes track meets problematic for someone like me.
- You need to pay attention. You may be there for 4+ hours, but your own kid will race for as little as 15 seconds. Yes, I said SECONDS (depending on the event), so don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Oh, and if your kid participates in any of the field events, be sure to pay extra attention. Those are easy to miss. I know because I did the first two meets. Yep, Mom of the Year right here.
- Two words: porta potty. Okay, that may actually be one hyphenated word (porta-potty), but you know what I’m talking about. Word to the wise: Bring tissues and hand sanitizer … Or hold it in.
Unlike raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, idle waiting and peeing in a stinky, blue box are a few of my least favorite things. But I love my boys, so I grin and bear it. Okay, I bitch and moan (only a little, I swear!), but I go because they really enjoy it. They’ve made new friends and stepped outside of their comfort zones. They’ve pushed themselves to compete in a way that is unlike what they are used to with football, basketball and lacrosse. Plus, they’re good at it and truth be told, I’m proud of them. It’s rewarding to see the smiles on their faces and the pride in their eyes when they set new personal records each week.
What makes track and field, and really any sport that is performed at a “meet,” unique is that it is both a team sport and an individual one simultaneously. Competition and camaraderie, independence and teamwork, personal goals and team effort are all happening at the same time. It’s both social and competitive — the perfect combination for my boys.
So despite a couple of porta potty mishaps and many seemingly unproductive hours spent sitting uncomfortably on steel bleachers, I have made peace with my new role as a “meet mom” for the good of the kids. Nothing a little pre-event planning, a packed cooler and a seat cushion can’t improve. Besides, with only one more meet to go, the Philadelphia CYO Championship, I can see the finish line.