July 26, 2015

Summer sports camps, lessons learned, and birth order

I'm so glad the sports camp portion of the summer is behind us.  My reasoning is more logistical than anything else.  Our kids were enrolled in four different basketball camps.  Some overlapped for a week.  Others butted up against each other from a timing stand point . . . as one age group was released the next bunch of kids began warming up, which made drop off/pick ups a bit more tolerable.  That's basketball.  In addition to hoops, Eddie, Mini, and Curly did soccer or volleyball at either the high school or the local junior high.  Laddie drove himself to football camp and an evening water polo league.  Of course all six kids swam on the swim team, which includes morning practices divided by level.  Our kids were spread out over the three morning practice times, but the caddies rarely attended their practices as they liked to arrive at the course early to get a loop.  The girls were mercifully able to attend the same basketball camp at the high school, but it interfered with many swim practices.  There were a few late morning or early afternoon Irish dancing classes tossed into the mix and one Friday when several of them attended an Irish music workshop.  It was enough to make my head spin. 

Back when Laddie was about 6 or 7, he was my only camper.  Basketball camp began at 8 am.  Too early!  I remember vividly organizing breakfast bars and dry cereal to-go along with activities for the younger siblings to do while Laddie participated in camp.  The baby who needed nursing would whimper as I hauled the stroller and the handful of kids into the gym.  Here I would finally change last night's heavy diaper, get out the snacks, and conceal the baby for a sweaty, under-the-blanket nursing session. 

Other moms stayed in the stuffy field house and observed, but most dropped off their son and drove away after sticking around for the first couple of days.  I chose not to leave Laddie.  We got comfy on the bleachers.  Eddie enjoyed watching the 'big' boys.  In hindsight, I recognize that Laddie's level of sensitivity was off the chart, but I also realize that kids are mean.  Call me a crazy embellishing mom if you must, but if there was a mean kid within a 10 mile radius - he found his way to the camp, and took some satisfaction in dishing out a serving of crap to Laddie.  I used to wonder if Coach and I were too nice to our first born.  Should we have picked on him a bit at home?  Called him names?  We certainly weren't the kind of parents who overly praised his sports abilities.  There was no 'Rah-rah you missed again, but golly gee you were so darn close.'  We encouraged practice, correct form, and friendly competition.  Of course without older brothers to show him the ropes, progress was slow.  Damn birth order.

There was a kid who constantly told Lad he was doing the drill wrong.  Threatened to tell the coach that he was dribbling with the wrong hand.  During the barely supervised scrimmages, his teammates refused to rotate out leaving him sitting on the sidelines for most of the game.  Watching.  Aggressiveness was not his strong suit.  Perhaps I should have left the building.  Let him figure it out.  Grow up a little.  I believe I pushed the stroller around the outdoor track one morning, but mostly I stayed.

Just before camp ended each day, the coach set up a giant game of shooting knockout.  The kids were broken out into small groups at several hoops.  The first player had to make his shot before the kid behind him could make his shot.  If the second kid swished one before the first player, the first player was out.  Eventually the last kid at each basket would compete against the other 'still standing' players.  All the campers would get excited to participate and would be encouraged to cheer for one kid in the finals.  Camp lasted for two grueling weeks.  One of the last days of camp, Laddie was the last guy at his station for shooting knockout.  I'm not sure who was more surprised, me or Lad.  He lasted thru the semi final.  Eventually he and one other kid named Ryan were the last two remaining players. 

The coach called everyone over.  He instructed the campers who planned to cheer for Ryan, the star of the camp who had made it to the finals every day, to line up on one side of the lane.  Then he pointed to Laddie and announced that anyone who planned to cheer for Laddie to head to the other side of the lane.  Not one camper raced to join the cheering section for my young son.  It was tortuous, defeating, and pointless.  I quickly grabbed Eddie by the arm and ordered him to stand next to his brother.  "But Mommy, I don't think that guy will let me.  I'm not one of the big kids."  When he heard my voice choke with tears as I said, "I don't care.  That is your brother and you will cheer for him!" -he didn't hesitate. 

Of course Laddie didn't win the final round, but Eddie was by his side and I was clapping wildly with the peanut gallery from the bleachers.  I shared a few choice words with the coach on my way out.  He claimed the exercise was a team building opportunity, and it taught the kids to handle the pressure of the game.  I basically told him he wouldn't know how to build someone up if the ability bit him on the ass.  I was also quick to point out that I had clearly just witnessed a popularity contest. 

Eventually I stopped tagging along to all of Laddie's camps.  We tried to teach him quick comebacks and strategies to ignore the idiots of the world. His sensitivity and his lack of aggressiveness continued to make it difficult for him.  Reggie on the other hand enjoys all the advantages offered by being the youngest of four brothers.  He's athletic and ultra competitive.  I now have to worry that he will behave like a toad and sneer at some kid who is giving it his all and coming up short.  With too many places to drop off and pick up, I don't sit and observe his sports camps.  Instead I give him pep talks that include how to be a good sport and a good friend.  I have witnessed plenty of his passes to weaker players during his basketball season, so I continue to cross my fingers and hope my instructions sink in. 

One of the final basketball camp days in June, I dropped off Tetanka for warm ups and told him to let Reggie know that he might have to sit and wait for me for a few minutes because I needed to run to Target quickly.  Reggie typically got out 10 minutes late, so I thought I had enough time for this quick errand.   Reg was perched on a bench outside the gym entrance when I returned.  I was late.  He rolled his eyes, slumped over, and threw up his arms at me in disbelief.  Just as he got close to the car, I sped away.  That wiped the look off of his face.  I parked across the lot and waited.  He spotted me and started walking towards the car.  First he looked around to see if anyone noticed.  I jumped out of the car and told him to sit back down.  I would pick him up when I thought his attitude adjustment was complete.

Turns out Tetanka failed to deliver the message.  Regardless, this basketball camper needed to learn a lesson off the court.  Show Mommy respect or you will get slam dunked!  Damn birth order. 

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