hen we brought the adorable, pink-skinned, sideburn-faced baby boy home from the hospital, we were ecstatic. And scared to death. Those first few days of crying (him and us), no sleep (him and us) and one pacing, confused, constantly barking border collie seem so recent, even though our son is about to turn 22.
Once the walking started and the diapers disappeared, we started to think about sports. Would he be an athlete? My husband had been one. Quite a good one, he’ll tell you! I was the furthest thing. But I hoped our son would embrace the physicality and competitive nature of sports.
First came swimming lessons—so important because they can save your life. But what next? Like tens of thousands of Mt. Lebanon kids, his first group sport was Mt. Lebanon’s recreational soccer program. At that first practice, on the lawn at Spalding Circle, I was petrified. Would he get hurt? Would I get hurt? Should I start writing the college scouting packet yet?
Coach Mark appeared, almost as if from a primordial mist. With his whistle and mesh bag full of balls, his calm demeanor and ready chuckle, he immediately put me at ease. After Coach Mark came Coach Ed, followed by a list of parent coaches over the years who all shared that similar knack for teaching, comforting, cheering and setting the ground rules of respect and kindness. We went from those early soccer years that my husband called “amoeba-ball,” watching the whole group follow the ball from one side of the field to the other, to Lebo Cup soccer, full of weekend tournaments.
Yeah, it turned out that playing sports was not going to be my kid’s thing. He was more interested in the type of aircraft flying over the game than the ball being passed to him and making “cakes” out of blades of grass pulled off the side of the playing field. I was also relieved because those all-day tournaments were so long that I found myself hoping they’d lose so we could go home. Is that bad to admit? I am clearly not soccer mom material.
But what IS my kid’s thing, what lasted, was my son’s enjoyment of sports—the love of the games. He paired that enthusiasm with his love of photography and spent his high school time and now college years on the sidelines photographing every team sport, including Penn State football. Thank you to Coach Mark, Coach Ed and that long list of others who gave up weeknight dinners at home with the family to create a future for thousands of kids like mine.
Please take a moment to read about the coaches who have the patience and dedication to instill kindness and skill to the next generation, in writer Shelly Anderson’s story, Coaching Your Kids: Parents Give Back to Youth Sports. And next time you see your kid’s coach, make sure you say thank you. Pass it on!
Laura Pace Lilley, Editor in Chief
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