A Little Slice of Hell

by gillis

The excitement of another travel team basketball tournament weekend has come to a close. The third and fourth grade players faced one another in the cavernous Boys and Girls Club, complete with three adjoining basketball courts. While this building is spacious, allowing for multiple games to be played simultaneously, it’s like all the other clubs in that none of the bathroom stall doors seem to close, and the concession stand is stocked to the ceiling with burned popcorn, Skittles and Laffy Taffy. It’s a little slice of hell.

Watching these games as a parent is difficult for me, not only because my athletic ability and knowledge is limited to sporadic, trendy fitness activities, but because I am not emotionally equipped to handle the intensity of the event. The first time I heard a parent shout,”What’s WRONG with you Alyssa!!” with veins in his neck bulging out as his daughter missed what he saw as an easy shot, I was shocked. I looked around to find a kindred spirit, but no one made eye contact, their eyes were glued to the court. I heard many more  “words of encouragement” at that game and found myself suddenly glad to have a toddler keeping me busy so that my blood pressure stayed in check. I had no idea that I would eventually find myself nearly immune to the shouting, and certainly didn’t think I would become one of the shouters myself…

Watching soccer, and later softball, didn’t prepare me for basketball. I theorize that being outside in the open air helped keep oxygen levels up so that parents remained rational at these outdoor sporting events. It’s when we’re trapped inside “gymnasiums” with poor air quality, and buzzing, florescent lighting raining down negativity on us that we turn into these obnoxious creatures who are ready to see our kids hit the YMCA’s equivalent of the Arena from The Hunger Games. If I could sail in a loaf of bread and some new arrows to my kid during the 3rd quarter, I’m sure I’d do it.  The loud buzzers and whistles that echo around the room so that only the players who are meant to hear them are unable to hear them, don’t help me keep my cool.

During one game, when Greta’s team was up by just a point with two minutes left on the clock, her coach “subbed her in” to take the place of a more skilled player, and I blurted out, “No!” That’s when I knew I was in trouble. When, for some reason, I cared more about the final score of my daughter’s game than I did about her. When I worried about the possibility of her “losing the game” for her team. When I let my fear and insecurity come bubbling to the surface. Not a proud moment. Luckily, Greta never heard me say that, although the spectators sitting around me did. And the team’s coach did as well, earning me a well-deserved dirty look. I felt terrible and could barely focus on the game after that. I was able to look up from my shame in time to catch my kid toss the ball through the hoop to earn her team another two points, which sealed the win for the team. I couldn’t quite find my voice to cheer at that point. Luckily, the other parents made up for my silence.