There’s always at least one of us at every kids’ sports game or match.
Yes, we are loud and enthusiastic. Yes, our voices carry. Yes, our hands clap particularly loudly. Yes, the whole gym/court/field can hear us rooting for our kid’s team, our kids, their teammates.
We are aware of all of this.
Your discomfort with our enthusiasm will not stop me because what really matters here is the following:
- I positively cheer, encourage, lift—never boo, demean, criticize.
- I respect the game, not interrupting the coaches or refs, not trying to distract the other team during penalty shots.
- My kids appreciate it, thank me for it. Sometimes their teammates do, too.
It might not be shocking to hear that I was a cheerleader in high school. I learned about the games I didn’t play while on the sidelines doing a sport that suited me quite well. I was a positive person who was comfortable standing in front of a crowd openly encouraging my team to do what I believed they could (and I was strong enough to throw women over my head with ease).
Throughout my years of cheerleading, I could usually tell when a team was starting to drag, when its belief in itself as a unit was weakening. When the team or individual players needed an outside person to remind them that they could do it, so, GO GO GO WE KNOW YOU CAN DO IT SO SHOW US, YES! JUST LIKE THAT! NOW DO IT AGAIN! The claps and words and belief blew out of the stands and into the arms, legs, hearts of the players, inflating them back into believing in their full potential. Re-energizing them into the hard work of winning.
It is magic. Loud, crazy-looking magic that works.
Yes, I did other sports, too. Lots of activities. You know what I didn’t have? Parents in the stands calling out their support. I had to pull the grit from my own head and heart, had to cheer myself on when I wasn’t performing well. It was what it was, and when I needed backup, I drew that from whoever was offering.
These days, I have two athletes of my own. I have taught them how to pull their own grit from within, to cheer themselves on, but I also show them that they are never alone. When I can be in the stands for them, I clap, I cheer, I make it abundantly clear that I believe in them until the very end.
Even if I’m tired. Or we’re in the rain. Or it’s a late night game. Or it’s eleven thousand degrees in the sun. I do the job I came to do, just like is expected of the kids on the field, turf, or court.
We can’t do the hard work for them, but we can remind them of what they are capable of doing if they focus, believe, and bust their butts trying. (Then after the game, we can have the talks we need to about how they thought they did, what they did well and should keep doing, what they didn’t do well and how to improve on that. Cheering doesn’t mean handing out participation trophies.)
Sometimes I am the loudest positive voice on the sidelines during games (though I love it when I hear the other spell-casters in the stands), and I get the eye rolls, the stares, the jokes, the pointing. I understand their reactions. I really do.
But what those people don’t seem to get is that I believe in that loud, crazy-looking magic. I’ve seen it work, and am totally comfortable casting the spell on my own, if need be. The quiet support others give is lovely and appreciated, but sometimes you just have to shout for kids to get the message.
My kids and their teammates deserve the unabashed support of someone who believes in their potential. Not every kid’s parent is comfortable doing it as demonstratively as I do, even if they want to. Not every kid’s parent who wants to do it can make it to the games.
So I cheer for them all.
Kim Bongiorno is an author, full time freelance writer, and the blogger behind Let Me Start By Saying. Her latest publication is the essay “This One is for the Ghost Girls” in YOU DO YOU, an anthology about the female experience written by authors ages 12-65 for readers of all genders, ages 12 and up. Learn more by connecting with her: Facebook · Twitter · Instagram · Goodreads · Amazon.com · BookBub · Newsletter