family · team sports · traveling

On being a sports parent

Image description: The stands at Fletcher’s Fields in Markham, Ontario.

A rugby parent, to be specific.

There are many signs that I’m a rugby parent.

I have a copy of Rugby for Dummies on my Kindle from when I set out to learn the basic rules a few years ago.

(I noticed early on that rugby parents on the sidelines were nicer than hockey parents. There was very little second guessing the refs, yelling at the players, or arguing with the coaches. I mentioned this to my son’s coach, saying how pleasant I found it and he burst my optimistic bubble, “Oh, they just don’t understand the rules of rugby so they keep quiet.”)

You can also tell we’re sports parents because our car has collapsible camp chairs in the trunk for watching games.

We also keep the car well stocked with Gatorade and sun screen. Oh, and there’s a cleat tightening tool in the glove box. That’s a dead give away.

July is rugby month in our house. Actually it begins in June and ends mid August but July is all rugby all the time.

My son plays with a local club two practices and one game a week. He also plays with the competitive Ontario team, the Junior Blues U15. That’s one more practice and another game each week.

He started playing in Australia while I was on sabbatical there four years ago. He kept it up, and played for a school team in New Zealand on my sabbatical in Dunedin, NZ last year.

I’m super proud of his athletic achievements. One hundred and fifty kids tried out for the Ontario team and forty made it. After a month’s play the coaching team chose twenty of them to travel to British Columbia for the national rugby championships in Victoria. My son is going. That’s great that he was selected but I also think there’s real value in putting yourself out there in a competitive process and facing failure.

The day that I wrote this I only had to drive to Guelph. That’s about 120 km away. But the day before was Markham, add another 100. Next up, Belleville, add another 150 km. There’s a lot of driving involved.

A friend who is a hockey dad recently got deep vein thrombosis in his left calf. “Ah, the 401,” says the doctor knowingly, “Does it all the time.”

It’s a huge commitment. Parents have to make a large investment of time, money, and energy. Lots of money, lots of fuel, lots of driving, lots of meals on the road, lots of laundry. You name it. There’s more of it.

More than other things in our life it brings home to us how privileged our children are. It’s hard to imagine many families being able to afford this.

Rugby even affected our car choice. Our purchase of a hybrid was sparked by the realization we’d be making many trips to Toronto and environs in the months ahead.

Luckily it’s a sport I love watching.

Phew. My standing rule is that I watch games but not practises.During practises I do university work, blog, surf the internet, jog, ride my road bike, do burpees. Sometimes I shop.

It also matters that team sports are a force for good in this child’s life. He’s polite, punctual, a team player and these are all lessons he’s had reaffirmed by his involvement in sports.

What are the gender politics of being a rugby parent?

It’s been pretty impressive so far. The coaching crew refer to us as “parents.” No one calls me a “rugby mum.” They don’t seem perturbed by the different last names in our house.

And there seems to be good mix of mothers and fathers involved. I love that so many dads take on this aspect of parenting. I also love that mothers aren’t asked to bake, cook, or clean etc.

The main coach for my son’s team is a woman, a former member of the Canadian national team, and I like that.

My son is also pretty respectful of my own athletic achievements. We’re the early rising exercisers in our house and we frequently compare how much we can lift, how far and fast we run, etc. These days he’s ahead in just about everything, of course. He also always asks how my own games go.

Oh, and I also like non gendered team names. All the boys teams are the Blues and the girls’ teams are all called Storm. So my son plays on the Junior Blues U15 team but if I had same aged daughter she’d be playing on the Junior Storm. I like that!

4 thoughts on “On being a sports parent

  1. I found this sort of a heartwarming post to read. I really appreciate as an adult what my parents went through when they were raising me and driving me to the practices and games of two separate sports for 18 years. At the time, of course, I largely didn’t even realize that they were making sacrifices– time and money- for me.

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