SPORTS PARENTS: ARE YOU THE LION?

“In the jungle, the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight…”

–George David Weiss, Hugo E. Peretti, Luigi Creatore, lyricists for The Lion Sleeps Tonight

When I was 7 years old, I had $3.00 to spend for my birthday.  I bought three 45 rpm records:  “It’s My Party” by Lesley Gore, “Corrina, Corrina” by Ray Peterson, and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by the Tokens.  You know, the one that goes:  “A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh” (repeat)?  My friends and I wore those vinyls out, but of course our favorite was about the lion, a song with mysterious lyrics and a mystical melody.

Sixty years later I am here to tell you that I finally understand why the lion sleeps.  In researching for my book,  I  discovered that lions are distinctive from other big cats, like tigers, for a few reasons.  In the wild, the lion is more group-oriented in meeting his goals for the hunt.  Lions travel in “prides,” and seem to be more collaborative in caring for their young.  In general, they are more “at rest” and predictable (Britannica Online Encyclopedia).  These beasts and the youth sports parents I most admire share these qualities.

Such distinctive traits make Lions stand out amid the more anxious, restless Tigers in the jungle of youth sports.  Parents who tend to be more relaxed, team-oriented, and self-controlled at competitions are the parents I desired to emulate. These Lions knew the secret.  After all, aren’t sports supposed to be fun?  (Always remember it is just a game.)

So having said that, I will confess that my evolution from Tiger to Lion was years in the making.  Among the other parents with whom we shared our sports journey, there were many who behaved as Lions.  These were the parents who seemed to actually enjoy their children’s sports events. They could appreciate the bigger picture and not hyper-focus on their own child’s accomplishments, or lack thereof.  I have included a few examples of those who knew how “to rest” long before I did.

The first was a dad whom my husband and I referred to as the “king of courtesy.”  He was also “king of the jungle” at sports venues.  At the end of any game, win or lose, he found a way to show amazement at the positive aspects of the event.  He could quickly put things in perspective and be ready to move on from any disappointment.  He would get to your child before you could to congratulate him/her on a great effort, and he would include details that indicated he had actually focused on other athletes beside his own.  Remarkable.

There was a mom whom I had known previously as a competitive athlete.  She had raised three sons, and she knew the secret of being at rest at a ball game.  On days when I was particularly worked up about an upcoming sports event in which my child would participate, I scanned the bleachers to find where she was seated, and wedged my way in next to her.  The calm and positivity was contagious, and I tried to follow her lead as a spectator.  Undoubtedly she had witnessed misbehavior in the stands throughout her sons’ sports careers, and had learned how to just enjoy the journey.  Consistent and positive.

Another mom helped create a more balanced environment at games with the use of humor.  I have come to believe humor is essential!  She would make us all laugh, breaking the tension, allowing perspective to re-emerge.  I recall one night during a baseball tournament that was past everyone’s bedtime,  she arrived dressed in her bedclothes, complete with rollers in her hair and night cream on her face.  The parents who were fatigued from the day could just as easily have fallen into negativity in the stands.  But instead, we laughed our heads off and that comic relief set the tone for an enjoyable evening at the ball field.  That’s the only memory I have of that game.

The Lion sleeps because he/she is relaxed and understands the true value of youth sports.  The value is what the athlete takes with them which will enhance their lives beyond these momentary activities and experiences.

11 thoughts on “SPORTS PARENTS: ARE YOU THE LION?”

  1. I think I’m worse as a grandmother than I was as a mom. I’m screaming, “She travelled, Ref!”/“That was a foul!!” about some 10-year-old 5th-grade JV basketball opponent. I’m talking where the final score might be 10-12. I’m gonna do better. I’m gonna be a Lion. I needed this.

    Liked by 1 person

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