Manteca or bust-River City Counseling

After 26 years of teaching and counseling kids, I’ve worked with I’m not sure how many “elite” athletes. I’ve memorized their stories about travel teams, comp teams, select teams, rec teams, sports “academies”, school teams, trainers, coaches, dieticians, etc., etc., etc…Makes my head spin.

When KD was born, I was determined not to encourage this. Partly selfish, yes, but I didn’t want to spend my weekends driving a monster SUV up and down I-5, with things like “Go Assassins” and “Manteca or bust” written in puffy paint on the windows. (Nothing against Manteca; it could be any of thousand of cities that host weekend tournaments. Haven’t seen any “Carmel or bust” slogans. If I did, maybe my opinion might shift a little. But I digress…)

People often told me that these trips are good family bonding time. Sorry, but kids with ear buds in, focusing on whatever screen is in front of them, doesn’t qualify. Neither does shoveling in hard-boiled eggs, instant oatmeal and pastries in plastic wrap at the complimentary buffet, before heading off to six games in 100-degree weather.

Fast-forward a couple of years: I learned KD is crazy about sports. These days, the second he wakes up, he literally sprints to the front door, opens the paper, and throws all other sections aside, so he can study the sport’s page as if he’s studying for his MCAT’s. Granted, he doesn’t always know all of his kindergarten site words, but he can certainly read “North Dakota State” and “Southern Florida” and knows the names of their starting five.

This daily ritual isn’t the least bit surprising, as I was the same as a six-year-old. I, like KD, was an extremely early riser, except my ritual was to sprint to the kitchen, so I could watch Canadian Football replays on our 12-inch, black and white TV. I think I might have been responsible for the entire market share in the Los Angeles area…Needless to say, it isn’t worth trying to keep KD from following sports.

As expected, he also loves playing sports and wants to be in every league possible. I want to support him, because it brings him so much joy to play and have his parents there to watch. He’s also pretty coordinated and, according to others, “really thinks out there and sees the whole court,” whatever that means. I tell myself that kids’ self-esteem, in part, comes from developing a sense of competency, so I’m OK with him doing well.

I’m also trying not to focus on how well he does, as it’s supposedly not good for him to hear this from me. (I give my wife 100% credit for this, as she shared an article about how parents should talk to kids about their games. It’s a struggle, but it makes sense.) So I tell him things like how I love watching him have a good time and be a good teammate.

So where does this leave our family? I encourage KD to play as much as he and we can. (On top of this, we’re also encouraging other things: art, music, and creative, unstructured time.) He plays on some teams that are supposedly a little more competitive than others (but at this point seem pretty much the same.) He’s having fun and feels good about himself, so I don’t want to stifle it. I also have my alarm set for 615 tomorrow, as his game starts at 8 a.m. I’m picking up some instant oatmeal and packaged pastries on my way home, in preparation for the complimentary buffets to come. I’m also keeping my eyes on the prices of gas and used Chevy Yukon’s.

4 Responses to Manteca or bust-River City Counseling
  1. Rory
    April 5, 2014 | 3:56 pm

    Great piece! We have many of the same conversations in this house. Never would’ve imagined I’d be parenting a house where athletics are so prime-time — especially because this world was a million miles away from my childhood. Bottom line: for my kids, it gives them joy more than almost anything else. And for my son with anxiety that is just under the surface each day, sports are an unmatched outlet and huge happiness and there is nowhere I see bigger smiles. (Free time in nature. That is the only other place that has the same impact on my kids.) There was a great piece from NYT parenting blog that I read yesterday — how to a large degree, we choose how busy we want to be. Our lives can be full and “busy” but so much more satisfying when we vote on what those things are. We are round the clock right now with Little League games and practices, uniforms in the laundry as I speak, volunteering with the league, but nobody is complaining. It’s our happy, every one of us — and thereby our “busy” by choice. Your piece was a good one on the heels of that.

    • Steve DeBenedetti-Emanuel
      April 7, 2014 | 9:13 pm

      Rory, thank-you for your thoughtful response. At the end of the day, your children’s joy from sports is at the top of your list. And that’s what’s best for all of you!

      Loved the article you shared. It’s a good reminder of the importance of staying in the moment. I was in the middle of some sport with KD over the weekend and found my mind wandering to what was next. I’m not sure I would have caught myself had I not been reflecting on the importance of enjoying where/what we’ve chosen to do in that moment. So thanks…

  2. elizabeth
    April 5, 2014 | 4:18 pm

    Love, love, love the article. It shows how real life takes over hypothetical scenarios.

    You meet the best parents and families when you are involved in sports. Also love of sports can occupy lonely moments or stressed filled times in your life. Plus it is just plain fun and enhances your social life.

    My husband is finishing work early today so we can watch the final four games. I am planning a delicious steak dinner…..also trying a new hair do so he will think I look cute while we are watching….opening some great wine….

    Yea KD and Steve and Stephanie.

  3. Sharon Skelton
    April 6, 2014 | 4:00 pm

    I remember those days , Steve. There was a great TED radio hour on NPR on The Violence Within Us that made me think of those times. Although it talked about a little more than game boards. At least you aren’t playing risk! That one was hard.
    Steve, I can’t figure out how to post your blog on my facebook. If you have time, will you do that? It’s a great topic, although when I saw the title I thought … Is he moving his practice to Manteca? Thankfully, no.

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