A Big Cheer For All

22pt Htky Htky Htky Htky Htky Htky Htky

Deb Beaupre
 (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Deb Beaupre (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

To cheer or not to cheer? That is a complicated question.

One day in October, I was driving a long way from home to a day-long soccer event. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and I was reminded anew by how lucky I am to be surrounded by pastoral beauty. All wasn’t perfect in the garden, however. I was suffering from an awful head cold and had to heavily medicate myself just to make it out of bed.

I was two hours late and pumping myself with caffeine in order to maintain my supportive parental game face. I began to wonder why I was I doing this. What was the point, exactly? She had already been playing since the early morning, so I wondered how much my presence would make a difference to my daughter. Would she suddenly light up at the sight of me and spring into action? Had she been playing half-hardheartedly heretofore? Could my being there matter all that much?

See, here’s the thing.

We are so used to taking them here and there and being their support system that we don’t stop to think whether our presence actually matters. Of course we matter, we say.

(But that could just be 19 hours of labor, $11,000 in daycare and umpteen games of catch talking. We had better matter, doggone it.)

Of course you have to be there, they insist.

(That’s likely their comfort zone talking.)

But why? Would they actually play differently if we weren’t there?

When I arrived at the tournament, some parents who never say boo during the regular season were screaming their heads off, something I found fascinating. The fields at this venue are situated so that fans are farther away from players, so chances are high that the kids could only hear their voices, rather than their exact words. I deduced that these parents had been given strict instructions, as had I, about what they could and could not say by their athlete.

My rules are:

1. No nicknames

2. Nothing too aggressive sounding

3. Don’t cheer for me so often that other kids think you are obnoxious.

Now was their chance to get everything off their chests and belt out all that they had been holding in for six weeks. All the kid possibly could hear is,

“Way to ___! You can____!!” Totally worth the risk.

After that day, I began conducting a survey of kids of all ages in my travels and they have varying responses to receiving praise at their games. Many are ambiguous about having fans; they are so used to it, they are not sure how they feel about it.

It sort of came with the territory. That also struck me as interesting.

Certain players take comfort in noticing their fan base in the crowds. They like knowing that they are there. These are the kids who look for their family at each game.

It seems like a mutually advantageous relationship; the fans want to be there and the player wants them there, too.

When I asked them whether they play differently when the fans aren’t there, a lot of them actually stopped and really had to think.

Some had no answer. A large number said yes — that fans made them play harder, run faster, jump higher than they normally do. Fans give them a boost.

I was intrigued, so I probed further.

Wait a minute, I asked. If the game is really going strong and your fans aren’t there, say you are at an away game, don’t you run as fast as you can?

Well, yes, they said.

But when I hear my family cheering for me, saying my name, I can go even faster.

Amazing, I thought.

This is great news for parents like me because I get to double dip. While the kid sees me and is encouraged, I can enjoy adult company.

I have had some of the best times courtside since my kids began playing sports. The conversations are lively, interesting and can turn on a dime.

All the younger kids are off like a pack of feral beasts, so we rarely need to worry about little ears.

It is like having a dinner party minus the wine, appetizers and pantyhose, and I am still getting credit for being there.

I watch, make comments, yell out praise and positive feedback. The ultimate in multitasking.

There is surprisingly little in the way of town gossip. I especially like it when men are present. Men elevate the discussion to topics other than the kids, school and, well...men.

If we do end up talking about the children, it is more in along the lines of, ‘guess what the knuckleheads did at my house’ with everyone one-upping each other.

It’s such fun after a long day of work and makes the time fly by. Fans from the opposing team have been known to chime in.

Parents, none of it has been in vain! What counts is them hearing your voice hollering the name you gave them.

What matters is them looking over and seeing you standing there looking on. They already play hard. When we cheer for them, its like jet boosters on their little, expensively clad, smelly feet and they play just that little bit harder.

We pay hundreds of dollars for gas, snacks and T-shirts and guess what? None of THAT matters. Save your hard-earned cash, moms and dads. They actually appreciate it when we just show up and scream.

Less really is more.

Deb Beaupre blogs @ countrysistah and teachermother.wordpress.com. She lives in Meriden.