I was coaching an away game for a college team one Saturday afternoon when a fanbase showed up to root for our team’s manager. Yes, the manager. Eight people huddled on the aluminum bleacher bench cheering her on. They had a sign and chanted cheers like “Sally, Sally, she’s our lad, if she’s not managing, things are bad.” Her name wasn’t really Sally and I’m not sure that was the exact cheer, but you get the gist.
They were there the entire game, cheered the entire game and took pictures with her afterward. The group was comprised of her parents, family members and a couple of friends. We had already arranged for a team meal at her family’s house afterward and the entire day was so filled with love and support. It was a memorable treat for all of us.
Watching that day unfold explained everything about what I had already observed in the young lady they were there to support. She was a confident, positive young woman who was thrilled to be part of the team in whatever capacity she could. She had been disappointed when she was told she had not been selected to be on the roster, but it was really easy to say yes when she came back later that day to ask if there was a way for her to stay involved with the program anyway.
Her transition to manager was so easy for all of us because she accepted her role and was perfectly happy to be there. She was in her second year in college and her friends were on the soccer team. She wanted to help and we were glad she wanted to stay.
What I never expected was how her family and friends responded to her new role. My kids were young then and I know it would have been hard for that younger more competitive version of myself to be supportive of a team where my kid wasn’t playing. It is an honest admission to tell you I am still working through personal frustrations when my kids have roles on their teams that are hard for me to watch. My growth is in identifying this struggle and making the right choice anyway.
We drove a couple hours last night to watch our daughter play back-up goalie. It is a necessary role for her as a senior captain, when the junior goalie is good too, but an interesting challenge for me.
We knew before our drive that she was not in the game’s lineup and the entire time we were driving I kept thinking about that team manager and her family.
Why did they go to that game? They went to that game because their daughter, who attended college three hours away, was back near her hometown. They went to that game because they had always gone to her games and she was part of a team that was playing. Probably the biggest reason they went to that game was because they loved their daughter and they had an opportunity to show her that.
I’m not a good fan of teams, our kids’ teams or otherwise. I don’t really enjoy pre-game bar stops or the socializing that parents pursue, so when I attend games it is because I want to watch our kids play. I am working to change my thinking about this.
I want to be more like that love-filled group of people who showed up to cheer on our manager.
I want to show up where my kids hope I’ll show up.
I want to support the bench version, the starter version, the successful version and the struggling version of our kids. It is not unconditional if I show up for only the versions of them that make me feel all aglow with pride. It is unconditional to show up…even if they never play.
Copyright Meagan Frank 2019
The Team Adult Playbook