Two words: Sports talk. Two more words: Mom blogger. What could possibly go wrong?

I was extended an invitation by Damon Benning, who is one half of the broadcasting powerhouse known as Sharp and Benning in the Morning, to appear on their sports talk show this Wednesday. They’ve been educating and entertaining listeners for over two years on 1620 the ZONE, Omaha’s #1 local sports station.

The topic is youth sports and how adults ruin everything for the kids.

I may have taken the liberty of adding the last eight words based on my opinionated view on this matter.

I will be part of a panel of experts – well, besides me, of course – and I have no idea what to expect. Strangely, that is precisely how I prefer to work. I don’t want to know what you’re going to throw at me. I like to respond by winging it (much to the chagrin of my former coaches and bosses).

I know that Damon was a former standout student athlete like myself. He simply played in a larger arena. He was a running back for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers from 1992 to 1996. He was the 1996 Orange Bowl MVP.

He knows what it’s like to compete at a high level and then raise kids who are playing competitive sports as well.

If he doesn’t introduce me as a Creighton University Hall of Famer to tout my credentials, you better believe I will. I know I will be speaking to a (predominantly) large group of male listeners, and I can only imagine what they’ll all be thinking when they hear a local mom blogger is joining in on the discussion.

Guys, listen, I had an athletic career before I was a mom…and it was a damn good one. So, yes, I do get my panties in a twist when a parent tries to convince everyone that their kid is destined to go pro, or decides it’s a good idea to publicly humiliate their child because they disagree with a coach or an official, or generally live vicariously through their offspring on the court or field. Your kid’s either got it or they don’t…the truth hurts sometimes.

The statistics speak for themselves: From High School to Pro – How Many Will Go?

I believe Dr. Louis M. Profeta put it best in his March 25 post, Your kid and my kid are not playing in the pros.

With all of these facts staring us normally level-headed adults straight in the face, why do we continue to justify spending thousands upon thousands of dollars in private lessons, league fees, hotel accommodations, athletic gear, and (gasp) medical bills to keep our son or daughter in the game?

Anyone who knows me knows I am one of the biggest advocates of youth sports. Team sports, in particular, teach kids the valuable lesson that things don’t always go your way. They drive home the concept of a collaborative group being greater than any one all-star.

The biggest dilemma I’ve faced as I’ve shifted from player to parent is I have more perspective now. Let me repeat that: I consider my parental perspective a dilemma. The reason I feel that way is because I’ve witnessed a handful of wonderful coaches and parents putting their time and energy into teaching kids how to play the game. I’ve also watched a lot of selfish adults putting their own interests ahead of all else. The former group is shrinking by the second.

Kids must learn how to win graciously and lose humbly. Adults must learn how to level set expectations.

Because, at the end of their playing days, every athlete should feel pride in what they’ve accomplished, not shame for what never was.

Written by Heidi Woodard

Have you ever taken time to step outside of the normal protocol that we all, as the collective human race, have agreed is the acceptable way of doing things? Take airline travel, for instance. Let’s look into the typical experience of an airline traveler together, shall we?

I’ve had the distinct privilege of spending a lot of time in airports and airplanes as of late. I realize this entire rant will come off as a series of ridiculous #firstworldproblems (as it should). But I’m willing to bet I can make at least a handful of you laugh at the absurdity of it all.

Top 10 Ways I Would Describe Airline Travel to an Extraterrestrial

#10 In order to get from one place to another place without staying on the ground, you must spend a boatload of money to insert yourself into a metal contraption with other people who you would otherwise avoid like the plague.

#9 In order to board such a contraption, you must arrive at an overly crowded, hectic, muggy (or freezing), germ-filled “people pen” hours in advance of your flight.

#8 In order to be allowed into the “people pen,” you must have all of your possessions scanned, your body patted down (if you’re extra special), and your baggage tightly packed into a little box that may or may not reside on the same level of the metal contraption as you when you travel. If it ends up being stowed away, you have an 80 percent chance of seeing it again after your flight.

#7 Once you board the metal contraption, do not…I repeat DO NOT…be taller than 5 foot. Otherwise, you are pretty much screwed and won’t fit into your assigned spot.

My poor 6'5" coworker whose identity I've attempted to poorly protect.

My 6’5″ coworker whose identity I’ve attempted to poorly protect.

#6 Speaking of that assigned spot, it’s never really guaranteed until you park your backside into your actual seat. Depending on which metal contraption company you book your flight through, you may be surprised to find that someone who possesses the exact same assignment as you is already located in your seat. Because here’s the kicker: Seats are overbooked or double-booked sometimes. Crazy good times, right?

#5 No matter how many times you fly, you must sit through the “the talk” before you leave the ground. “The talk” consists of a series of instructions on what to do if your metal contraption decides to fall out of the air. You just sit there, along with everyone else, pretending to believe that as long as you insert your life vest or breathe through the oxygen mask per proper protocol, you won’t die as the death trap in which you’re riding nosedives 500 MPH to the Earth’s surface.

#4 If you’re really lucky, your assigned seat will be located next to a window that gives you a spectacular view of what surrounds your metal contraption. Sometimes that view consists of fluffy white clouds…or clear blue skies…or violent storms and lightning. But rest assured, dear friends, turbulence (which can be best described as the shaking, dipping, and diving that your body experiences when you have zero control of your destiny) is fleeting.

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Blackness outside one moment, then a flash of lightning the next. Almost feels like you can reach out and touch it, from the electricity-conducting contraption in which you are trapped.

#3 You will be offered a free non-alcoholic drink while you’re in the air. Big spenders can get boozed up. Decide in advance whether or not you take up that service. If you do, you run the risk of having to relieve yourself in a space the size of a hall closest. If you don’t, you better wish on your lucky star that the air within your metal contraption is somewhat temperature controlled. Because when (not a matter of if, but when) your allowed amount of cool air has run out, you may be tempted to steal your neighbor’s left-over ice cubes when she’s sleeping.

#2 Try to avoid being tired. But if you are, rest assured, you can recline 1.5 inches to really stretch out and relax your neck and back muscles.

#1 The moment your metal contraption returns to Earth and comes to a safe, complete stop, and if you are sitting in an aisle seat, be sure to pop up like a coked-out meerkat. If enough people do this, you are able to depart the plane in exactly 29 minutes as opposed to 30.

Written by Heidi Woodard

I was approached by Fanatics to participate in their “Family Fanatics” initiative, challenging bloggers to share their stories about how sports has brought families together. Fanatics is the leading online retailer of officially licensed sports merchandise – everything from NBA jerseys to MLB caps.

Ironically, their invitation arrived as my family was heading out of town to a baseball tournament for our oldest son. I jumped on it without hesitation.

Baseball tourney turned mini-vacation

Baseball tourney turned mini-vacation. How the big boys roll.

 

There is no I in TEAM.

There is no I in TEAM. The little guys in their team huddle.

 

How has sports brought us together? That’s easy for me to answer. To put it simply: I can’t imagine growing up without having played sports. My husband grew up much the same way that I did. Two jocks met, fell in love, got married, and passed down the tradition of loving sports to their offspring. Fortunately for us, our children love competing in athletics too.

Now is the point I’m guessing many of you are thinking, Of course they do. What other choice have they been given but to live out your glory years for you?

To that, I reply: Touche.

I’m not going to lie. As I’ve aged and it’s become quite apparent that I no longer “got it,” it’s extremely enjoyable to watch a younger, fresher, more nimble generation take the reigns.

After much prodding by their mom and dad, both my boys have repeatedly reassured us that they love playing the game (whether that game is basketball, baseball, or football) as much as we did. Their little sister even has one memorable season of basketball under her belt. It wouldn’t have mattered if I steered them in this direction or not. I have no doubt all three of them would have inevitably arrived here on their own somehow.

 

Baseball besties catching their big brothers' game.

Baseball besties catching their big brothers’ game.

 

Hard to top feeling on top of the world when you're 10.

Hard to top feeling invincible when you’re 10.

 

Through sports, they are not only learning how to play the game, but they are meeting friends along the way. Their number of mentors has grown throughout the years thanks to a lot of selfless coaches. They know what it’s like to feel pride in their accomplishments as well as disappointment in their shortcomings. They’ve felt the gratification of stepping up in a big-time situation as well as the shame of failing to rise to the challenge.

I can honestly say I learned more about how to deal with difficult people through my years on the ball field and hard court than any experience I’ve had since in the “real world.” I can also freely admit that it’s hard to match the level of camaraderie one experiences when playing for something greater than just yourself.

Whether we are road tripping to and from tournament competition sites or sitting around a table grabbing dinner after the final made out or blown whistle, sports allow us to bond together and relate to one another despite huge generational gaps.

 

Win or lose? Who cares as long as we get to ride the Rhino to drag the field for the next game.

Win or lose? Who cares as long as we get to ride the Rhino to drag the field for the next game.

 

photo 1

It’s not all fun and games when dad is driving. Car sickness strikes at the most inopportune times.

 

Team sports, in particular, teach kids the valuable lesson that things don’t always go your way. Not everyone gets a medal for simply showing up. The greatest athletes are the ones who don’t play for pride, but rather for the love of the game.

I hope my children can apply these lessons and more as they grow into adults. I believe that parents like me can either help or hinder that progress from the sidelines.

Written by Heidi Woodard

I vaguely recall what it feels like to have a normal summer. Summers gone by involved my husband, Ryan, and I spending time with friends, playing slow pitch softball or sand volleyball, grilling out, and chilling out.

We then mutually agreed to welcome three little time suckers into our lives. And, better yet, we agreed to raise them as mini versions of ourselves. So, to answer your inevitable questions: Yes, I do know what I signed up for and, no, I am not expecting you to feel sorry for my self-imposed schedule.

Baseball was a sport that Ryan tolerated. It was an off-season activity that he played just to keep himself occupied. As one of the most impatient people I know, Ryan could never embrace the pace of baseball as a player. It actually makes me laugh to think about him standing in the outfield as a young man, shagging balls for his teammates, staring blankly into space, and questioning what he was doing with his life.

I, on the other hand, looked forward to softball season every summer as a player. While sports like basketball and volleyball were fun and challenging, there is something about being able to be outside with your friends, getting dirty, and daring a pitcher or hitter to attempt to smoke a ball by you. This isn’t the first time I’ve argued that the game of baseball/softball is the best sport on earth.

Fun fact: Baseball is the only sport where the defense controls the ball.

Now that I have two boys playing a combined 100 games in the summer and their little sister who has the distinct pleasure of being dragged to most of them, I can tell you this: Baseball is NOT always the best sport on earth to experience as a parent of a player.

As we enter the month of June (baseball season in the Midwest begins in late April and runs through early July), I know I’m not alone when I say that – despite the fact I haven’t personally played a single inning, I am tired…exhausted actually.

For those of you who are in the same boat as we are with multiple kids involved in athletics, here’s a top 10 list for parents on how to survive a summer of youth sports:

#10 Say yes to any and all invitations to let your youngest child go to a friend’s house. A mom of one of my daughter’s friends asked if my daughter could come over for a play date today. I had to control the urge to give that mom an extra long, awkward embrace when I went to retrieve my child after I watched two games of uninterrupted baseball.

#9 Beg the grandparents to take one of your boys off your hands – divide and conquer transportation to/from baseball tournaments, uniform coordination, and fast food consumption.

#8 Talk yourself out of feeling like the worst mom on the planet because of your inability to clone yourself. You are going to miss out on a few big plays in order to see others.

#7 When the kids aren’t playing up to their potential on the field, do me a favor: Look to your right. Look to your left. Remind yourself that you are not alone in your misery.

#6 Remember what it was like to be a kid. There is a difference between embracing the present and reliving the past. I freely admit that I do a little of both.

Win or lose? Who cares as long as we get to ride the Rhino to drag the field.

Win or lose? Who cares as long as we get to ride the Rhino to drag the field.

#5 Be appreciative of the time that coaches take investing in your child. You may not agree with every piece of strategy they deploy, but every move is made with the full intention of making the team better today than what they were yesterday.

#4 Resist the urge to correct umpires. I’ve come to realize you will run into three types of umps: Those who can tolerate the game, those who love the game, and those who think they are God’s gift to the game. Each type will make mistakes because they are human.

#3 Walk away from drama. Don’t cause it yourself. After all, it’s a GAME. It’s a seemingly never-ending one, but it is a GAME.

#2 Be proud of the boys who succeed and build up the boys who don’t. Whether on or off the field, your child will feel what it’s like to be in both situations throughout their lifetime.

#1 Remember you can never have enough sunflower seeds, peanuts, or farmer’s tan.

Written by Heidi Woodard