For 13 years, I have been cheering my son on in his athletic activities. It started in kindergarten with youth soccer. Youth hockey began in 2nd grade. By high school, Josh played on the soccer team in the fall, the hockey team during the winter, and ran on the track & field team in the spring. While I was unable to attend every game and meet, I attended all that I could, and brought my enthusiastic cheering to every sideline for hundreds games and races.
Now that Josh is about to graduate high school and move on to the adult world, his participation in youth and high school sports ended yesterday with his final race in the 300m hurdles at the State Regional competition last night. While I am sure he will find avenues for competitive sports as an adult, it is unlikely that I will be able to attend most of those events and cheer him on.
I have previously written about how well run student athletic programs help to improve high school academics, and how appreciating staff support for their students’ athletic endeavors provides critical support to student success. But today, I write about why I cheered so often, for so many years, and the parental fulfillment that culminated after yesterday’s final race.
I learned a long time ago that the opportunities to vocally root for your child’s success do not present themselves as often as most parents would like. After all, we do not attend school with our children, and observe their successes and failures. While we can attend parent-teacher conferences, it simply is not the same as being an eyewitness to your child’s performance and through your presence and cheers, inform your child that he has your unconditional love and support. While Josh’s athletic schedule could sometimes be dizzying and often hard to fit into my busy schedule, I simply made the choice not to miss those many opportunities for such a public declaration of love and support for my son’s endeavors, as I knew that one day those opportunities would no longer be available, and they could never be recaptured if I missed them.
Track meets are very different than hockey and soccer games. They take hours to complete and the races tend to be very short. Last night was no different. I arrived in the pouring rain around 4:30 PM, and waited until Josh’s 300m hurdle race started almost 3 hours later. The 300m hurdle event is a grueling race. Josh is the only hurdler on his team. It starts across the track from the stands and I did my best to soak up every second of the under 1 minute race.
When they came around the bend, I could see the tremendous effort it takes to stride over each hurdle. It did not matter that Josh was not in first place, since both he and I are used to appreciating his effort regardless of whether he wins the race. As Josh finished the race, every one of his facial muscles revealed that he was giving it his all.
It had been a long day, and Josh would take the team bus back to school, so after his race, I texted him my congratulations on a race well run, let him know I was heading home, and told him to text me when he was ready for me to pick him up at school.
It was nearly 10 PM when Josh asked me to pick him up. Anyone who parents teenagers knows that parental appreciation is not always freely given as teens struggle to find their own place in the world and declare their own independence. But last night was different. First, Josh sent me the following text before I picked him up:
You’re the best. Thanks for coming to see my last high school race even if it wasn’t [a] good sporting event.
Needless to say, that appreciation warmed my heart. Best of all, it continued when Josh got in the car. He thanked me for cheering him on ever since kindergarten soccer and for being such a dedicated parent. When we got to a stop sign, we hugged in the car. I have probably forgotten many of Josh’s hundreds of sporting events. But I will never forget that hug.
Thanks Josh for giving me so many opportunities to cheer you on. I have every confidence that you will succeed as you move into adulthood, even if I am not there to cheer you on. Just listen inside, I will still be cheering for you.
For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.