Friday mornings in the fall, crisp and cool, set the stage for growing anticipation as the day leads up to Friday night at the football stadium. My childhood memories are still sharp when it comes to that high school venue. It was a place where I learned to love sports, become a fan of competitive athletics, and where I felt the pride of the traditions of my school.
As an adult and parent of a son who played football, I got to relive those memories and add to them through his high school playing career. One game is deeply etched into my memory because it was iconic in its intensity. Our team had been State Champions the year before, my son’s junior year, winning against all odds versus a talented cross town rival. It was the same rival we were facing on this October night, at their stadium. The game had playoff implications, national ranking at stake (we were 9th), and our team was undefeated.
Although leading deep into the fourth quarter, through a series of events including questionable play calling, poor player execution, unusual clock keeping, and less than sharp officiating, we ended up losing the ball game. To be honest, it felt like it had been stolen from our team. I guess you might say we were devastated, and by that I mean the adults, too.
In my book about youth sports, I talk about three types of parent behavior: lions, tigers, and bears. One of our lion-hearted dads was a successful business man, known for his wise and positive perspective. It was he who always saw the good in your child as well as his own. He could be seen congratulating both teams after games. Don’t think he wasn’t competitive. He himself had been a college quarterback, and knew all the range of emotions that competition can evoke.
I knew he, along with the rest of us, was hurting. Somehow it was particularly hard to shake regrets about the October game, loss of national ranking, undefeated season, how the game had slipped through our fingers. However, as November and playoffs approached, he spoke a simple but profound truth that allowed us to rally from our lingering discontent. All he said was this: “You know, life is not 12-0.”
Days passed and as it turned out, our team and that same rival earned the opportunity to meet for a rematch in the finals of the state competition. It was a chance at redemption, a reward for perseverance and the prize would be bragging rights. After a hard fought game, from the first snap to the final horn, our team hoisted the coveted trophy high for the fans, including parents, to see. Back to back State Champs! Not 12-0. Not top 5 national ranking. But bragging rights for sure! I love Friday nights in the fall.
Immersed in youth sports as an athlete, a mom, a coach, and an athletic administrator, it's my deep desire to encourage parents as they encounter all the "fun challenges" of their children's youth sports journeys. By the way, all the members of my clan played sports in college and beyond, most likely in spite of my parenting strategies. However, I will admit to my own missteps, so that you won't have to learn the key to real youth sports success the hard way as I did. Every child can be successful!
View all posts by Betty Ann Santi