For their sacrifices, parents of athletes deserve a high-five
For many reasons, it is not easy being a parent of an athlete.
For parents of athletes, the sacrifices are great. From emotional, financial and transportation support, to name a few important elements, parents must embrace and nurture their young athlete's sports interests, and do what is necessary to make that child's experience in that realm the best it can be.
Parents must cheer when a child performs well in a sport and give them a hug, a pat on the back and words of encouragement when things do not go quite as planned.
All of that, of course, is the easy part.
Parents also must, on some level, endure physical and mental health challenges to show they are 100 percent behind what their children are doing on and off the field of play.
Forget the fact many parents must figure out a way to work full-time and juggle the personal, educational and athletic needs of one or more children. Parents have to find a way to transport their young athletic stars to and from practices locally and to games all over this vast state and, if a child is really into a sport, drive them around New England to events.
Parents must sit or stand in the cold during spring and fall outdoor events. They must sit or stand under the hot sun during summer events. They must sit in rocking boats for sailing and, sometimes for four to six hours, in hot pools for swimming, cold rinks for ice hockey and figure skating and stuffy gymnasiums for large wrestling and basketball tournaments, or gymnastics meets.
Some are even forced to climb the side of mountains to watch ski racing or mountain biking.
And let me tell you, climbing halfway up Ragged Mountain at the Camden Snow Bowl in the freezing cold in the middle of winter to watch a downhill ski meet is no easy — and even somewhat dangerous — task. It is a physical challenge for those not in the best of condition to trek up a mountain or who are sensitive to, say, 10-degree temperatures.
However, most parents do what they have to. Usually, it is what they want to do. It is what they need to do. It is what they must do. To do less would not be being the best parent possible.
And to take that a step further, the older generation, the grandparents, often do their best to travel to their grandchildren's events. They support a young athlete's dream as much as their aging bodies will allow.
Like most parents, I attended as many of my son Brandon's sporting events as possible, from swim meets to ski events, from basketball, baseball and soccer games to indoor and outdoor track meets.
My wife, Sarah, and I even traveled around New England to watch our son compete in cross country and track and field when he was a student-athlete at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass.
To show our dedication (and perhaps lack of intelligence), we once drove five hours to Amherst College in Amherst, Mass. to watch Brandon run a 17-minute race — and only actually saw him a couple of times during the event when he was not in the woods or far from sight.
After a quick chat with him about college life, we then jumped in our car and drove five hours back home.
A 10-hour road trip to watch our child compete for, well, less than 10 minutes.
I remember Brandon, at the time, asking why we did that and telling us even his Wheaton College teammates' parents, many who lived in Massachusetts, did not drive to watch them. And we simply told Brandon we did that because we loved him, wanted to support him and we enjoyed another fleeting moment to watch him compete in sports.
So, all you young athletes, take a moment and give your parents/guardians/grandparents a hug, or high-five, and thank them for going to great lengths to make your entire sports experience the best it can be.
For supporting you when it may be a personal challenge — and sacrifice — to them.
594-4401, extension 114
Ken Waltz has been member of the media 30 years and has received hundreds of Maine Press Association and New England Press Association awards for his writing, photography and page design. He studied journalism at the University of Maine in Orono. He lives in South Thomaston with his wife, Sarah. The couple has an adult son, Brandon.
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