Thursday, August 30, 2012

Glory days are for parents, too

I venture to say that the four years we spend in high school are not the most important years we spend on this earth.

Arguably the formative years – the years when your mother is supposed to love and nurture you – are more important. Or maybe the years after high school, when you start giving back to the community, your state and nation by curing cancer or developing new technologies or righting wrongs.

Or paying taxes.

But high school?  What’s so important about high school that we spend the rest of our lives looking back at those four awkward years that are dominated by fads, cliques and bad hairstyles?

Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” I think, best sums it up:

“I had a friend, was a big baseball player back in high school

“He could throw that speedball by you

“Make you look like a fool boy

“Saw him the other night at this roadside bar

“I was walking in, he was walking out

“We went back inside sat down had a few drinks but all he kept talking about was

“Glory days, well they’ll pass you by

“Glory days in the wink of a young girl’s eye”

It’s been nearly 12 years since my son played in a Dover Tornadoes football game, yet it seems like only yesterday when the anticipation of a Friday night was the best darn feeling in the world, when the kid ran onto the field wearing his game face, and when he ran off the field after the end of the game in dirt-stained crimson and white – mostly victorious, sometimes beaten.

Man, I miss those days. Glory days.

So, I understand the feeling, parents, and, ahem, I’ve come up with another list:

–Don’t let anyone tell you that sports (and other extracurricular activities) aren’t important in the development of the individual. Sports teach teamwork, goal-setting and responsibility. My son and his former teammates are for the most part very successful in various careers and don’t seem to be burdened by the “Glory Days” syndrome. They are living in the moment.

–I found out early on that my high school athlete did not want to immediately replay the game with his parents after a win or loss. I think it’s safe to say that your high school athlete will prefer friends over parents in the aftermath. It’s nothing personal, mind you.

–Be wary about questioning the coach on his strategy or suggesting that if he’d play your son/daughter more the team would be more successful. Coaching teenagers is one of the hardest jobs on the planet. If you decide to confront the coach, or call him, you do so at your own peril. And your kid’s.

–Stay away from the practice field.

–Don’t discuss individual statistics with your son/daughter as in, “How many passes did you catch?” or “How many points did you score?” Being members of a team, they are learning humility and teamwork. Do not unintentionally encourage bragging.

–Athletes develop certain quirks as part of their preparation process. Treat that tattered T-shirt that he wears underneath his shoulder pads every day with the respect you’d give his Sunday-best white shirt. (Note to parents of middle school players: It’s up to you, Mom and Dad, to make sure the kid remembers to take his football pants to school on the day of the game. Pantless football players are destined to ride the pine.)

–Your student athlete needs to understand the importance of respect for classmates who have interests in other areas, such as the marching band or chess club. And obviously the respect thing works both ways. Most football players are not “dumb jocks.”

–Parents need to help their student athlete keep things in perspective. Losing a high school football game to the arch-rival is not the end of the world. The sun will come up the next day. I’m guaranteeing that.

–Don’t throw short in the flat. If you don’t understand this advice, you should really bone up on your football. Learn the game. By the way, it’s OK if you tell your son not to throw short in the flat.

Enjoy your glory days, parents. Remember, they are gone in the wink of a young girl’s eye.

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