“That ball was out of bounds!” I tell my wife sitting next to me on the metal bleachers. My butt hurts, but it’s the price I gladly pay. Did my wife roll her eyes? I think she did. That’s OK, I don’t expect her to get it. Not like me. She isn’t a parent-athlete.
Being a parent-athlete is tough. I go to every practice, sit on those hard metal bleachers and drink copious amounts of Diet Coke from a giant bucket I got from the hardware store. That’s true commitment, and I get it if the rest of the world doesn’t understand. It’s a hard life, but one that has chosen me. I didn’t intend to be a parent-athlete, but what are you going to do when greatness comes calling?
At practices, the parents around me talk about travel teams, club teams and special coaches from the Ukraine. I didn’t know those existed when I first started back when my daughter was only 5. But like they say, you have to start early if you hope to have any chance of making all-district. I don’t know what that is, but it’s the collective goal for parent-athletes. I’ve learned a lot from all of them.
For example, I am an expert in every sport my children play. Soccer, baseball, volleyball — I apparently have Olympic-level advice to give from the sidelines. I didn’t think any of us parent-athletes could be so knowledgeable, but that was before I realized we all had talent. You can’t define it. The talent is tough to quantify, but it’s there. Which is really great because I have to tell my kid what to do when the ball does something.
Some of the parents around me, during practice, talk about where they are going next. Orlando mostly, sometimes Sioux Falls, North Dakota. Then they will talk about spending $10,000 a summer for the gear to do whatever sport we are currently experts in. Gotta have those ultra high-end knee pads when playing something. Uniform shorts affect the level of play a great deal, more than you would think. That’s why they have to be bought from a small island in the South Pacific. Athletic gear isn’t cheap. A parent-athlete can’t go cheap. Go big or go home, like with the buckets of Diet Coke.
We are getting to the point where I don’t even know why we have to hire coaches anymore. I should just make my children play every sport, but listen to me from the sidelines. “Get that ball!” I’ll yell every once in a while when I look up from my phone that’s tracking my child’s stats internationally. That’s top-quality coaching. But still, hiring coaches shows total commitment. So we, all the parent-athletes, got together last week and decided we needed to hire a conditioning coach. Conditioning is important, but only if done in a controlled setting with me watching from the bleachers on my canvas stadium seat. It’s nice, and it’s woven by the same little hands that made my kid’s uniform.
“I’m going to say something. That ball was out of bounds,” I tell my wife.
“We aren’t at volleyball anymore. That game ended an hour ago.”
“Where are we?”
“Soccer. Your son is playing soccer.”
Excellent. I know a lot about soccer. What time do I pick up my trophy?
A version of this first ran on Hossman at Home.