We had another wrestling meet last night. Patrick remains undefeated, which is lovely. And I had an opportunity to further refine my increasingly complex philosophy about how, when, and about what to cheer.
When I blogged about the wrestling before I noted how being the mother of a frequent winner can be a somewhat lonely place, cheering-wise. People like cheering for the underdog. Patrick and I benefitted from that fact during his first season of middle school wrestling. Now, in his second season, when he is proving to be a fairly formidable force on the mat, he doesn’t get that boost from the stands.
There are two ways to look at this. One is that it’s human nature to want to see a winner defeated. The other is that it’s human nature to want to see someone struggle–and succeed. When I listen to the stands, I can hear both schools of thought reflected.
Does this make a difference? Yes, according to the experts. In our district, sports parents receive sportsmanship guidelines–and parents who violate them run the risk of being ejected from the event.
It makes a difference to the kids, too–at least it does to my kid. So back to last night. Patrick wrestled against two boys. His first opponent was just starting out. About ten seconds into the match I knew I would not be cheering. It just seemed wrong to cheer for my kid against a kid who had far less experience, ability, and training. The second match was less one-sided; he wrestled a boy he has wrestled before, and beaten. Boy, has that boy been practicing. Last night Patrick won, but on points, not by pinning.
I could have cheered for that match; it was a fast, exciting, even bout. But I didn’t, because no one else was cheering for the other boy. And that’s the lesson I came away with last night. If we expect sportsmanship on the mats, we have to show sportsmanship in the stands. While I won’t cheer against Patrick–there are some things a mother just shouldn’t be asked to do–I am learning that there are times when I should keep my boostership a private thing. It’s not sporting to cheer my son on to victory over a clearly less-able opponent. It’s not sporting–or particularly attractive–to sit screaming in the stands if no one is similarly supporting my son’s opponent.
What I think I’m learning is that the coach who comes to meets in a t-shirt that says, “If you want a victory, prepare for a war,” on it and I look at middle school sports very differently. War is about winning. Sports is about building bodies and characters, about learning the kind of nobility that is able to win and lose with dignity, and without gloating, or demonizing one’s opponent. It’s about learning to compete without anger. It’s about showing up, and working your butt off to hone a skill. And for me, it’s about learning when to speak, when to scream–and when to be silent. It’s about learning to accept my child’s defeats as well as his victories. Middle school sports can be all about teaching parents as well as children how to be good sports.