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Thursday, May 5, 2016

My competitive beast

Thursday, February 23, 2012

So over the last few months, it has been a whirlwind of basketball.

Basketball practices, going to watch high school games and going to youth tournaments for my older two girls, since both of them are playing traveling ball this year. Basketball is by far my favorite sport and I love everything about it, so this is fun for me. Thank goodness God blessed me with girls who also enjoy the sport and the feeling I get from watching them play and improve each year is so awesome.

However, there is something that happens to me that changes the very core of who I am when I attend my girls' games. I didn't know it existed until about four years ago when my oldest started playing competitive basketball.

Back then, this "thing" inside me, that I didn't know existed, reared its ugly head and completely unleashed itself. Once I sat down to watch her first competitive game, I went from being a relaxed, happy-go-lucky mom, excited about watching my baby play my favorite sport, to an obnoxious, screaming, know-it-all moron trying to coach my third grader from the bleachers.

Hubby was her head coach, but NO, I still had to yell out at the top of my lungs, exactly where she should stand, when to shoot and when to steal. That poor child didn't know where to look when her name was yelled, the bench where Daddy was or her crazy-eyed mother in the bleachers.

That was how I acted at all her games that year, and if that's not bad enough, after the games I felt like I needed to go over how she did and what she could have improved on.

Sometimes I even videotaped her game so she could see her mistakes. Keep in mind, she was all of 8 or 9 whopping years old and I was coaching her like she was playing in a NCAA semi-final tournament. My competitiveness, especially for basketball, had spilled out of me like hot lava and it was burning us all.

I'd always been very competitive, but it's totally different with your kids and I did NOT know to handle that. Looking back, all I did was make a huge fool of myself in the bleachers and did my little girl absolutely no good.

I have lots of regrets about those ugly occasions and have apologized many times to my daughter, vowing never to act that ridiculous again. Over the years, I have learned to manage this competitive beast that lingers in my belly and be more of a support and encourager. I admit I still have moments when I feel my blood start to boil, but I know my girls need their Mama first and foremost, and a soft place to fall if they play a bad game or get down on themselves. I also realized years ago, that they're little kids and not college all-stars looking to go pro. It's absurd the amount of time it took me to figure that out, but unfortunately, not everyone does.

This last weekend I got to witness, yet again, many of those parents who also have not yet realized their 10-year-old is not playing for an Olympic medal or a million- dollar paycheck. Sitting in the bleachers, watching my daughters' games, I was witness to several parents screaming instructions to their kids, trying to coach from the nosebleed section. I saw their child look up at those parents when they traveled or missed a basket, instead of their coach.

I heard a coach, who also was a parent, tell his team to take our players out if they had to, "do what it takes." I sat next to a couple who almost got into a knock-down-drag-out fight in the middle of their son's game. The mom wanted the dad to shut his trap, because he might upset their son by yelling at him, but all the while she was screaming out to the court what the poor little boy should be doing. If I hadn't had been there myself years ago, I might have asked her to shut HER trap, but I understood her competitive demon hadn't been tamed yet.

I was reminded that I still have my own competitive demons to deal with too, as it was taking all I had in me not to make a snide comment to one of the coaches from an opposing team that had just put a royal smack down on my daughter's team. I just wanted to politely and as sweet as I could muster, express to the coach, who was obviously addicted to plastic surgery, that I believe she might have just ranked her team a little low on the registration form, in order to perhaps win all their games and add another big, flashy medal to their stash. But ... I didn't. I let it go, and instead held in my lap my daughter, who was crying and mad at that team for putting such a hurting on them.

I know that I have not, by any means, conquered this competitive evil within me, and the desire to grit my teeth, squint my eyes and shoot evil glares to the opposing parents is always there when the score gets close or my kid gets hurt, but I've learned to acknowledge it and found some ways to deal with it. I've realized it's always going to be there, especially when it comes to sports I played myself. I only hope I'll be strong enough to keep it under control because some of the parents out there in youth sports have no filter on their mouth and the mama bear inside me might lash out some day. I sure hope I don't, or then I'd be writing an article about the day I got a police escort out of the gym and how the video of the fist fight between me and another mom made the 5 o'clock news.

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Jennifer Morgan
Motherhood Moments
-- Jennifer Morgan is the mother of three girls and lives in McCook.