It would be easy to think that the most difficult thing to do this weekend at Pueblo City Park was winning a state tennis title.
But that's not true.
The hardest thing - and I'm sure most parents would agree - was for parents to watch their children compete for state tennis titles. During three days of nonstop tennis action, I witnessed dozens of parents, armed with camcorders in one hand and digital cameras in the other, wander from court to court. They offered plenty of cheers, tons of encouragement and an occasional bottle of water to the players inside the fenced courts at the park.
Until a couple of years ago, I never would have given a second thought to the role parents play. But after watching my 9-year-old play soccer and tennis, I'm starting to understand the plight of a parent.
There are times, as a parent, when we want to jump on the court or the playing field to help our children find success. It's one of the hardest feelings for a parent because we can't.
Events like the state tennis tournament are as much about growing up and learning as they are about winning.
The trick for parents is to watch without jumping out of their skin. I know this from my own experience and also from watching parents pace up and down the sidelines, or in this case outside the tennis court.
It seems like it would be easy to watch our children compete, but it's a learned skill.
This week, I watched parents ride an ocean of emotional waves. They looked uncomfortable even when they were riding high on one wave because they knew that they could be at the bottom of that same wave with a bounce of the ball.
Being a parent is a lot like taking a ride in a Ferrari F430 Spider with a teenager who just got a driver's permit. Sure you can try to stop the car by putting your foot through the floorboard, but it's not going to work.
What you need to do is sit back and relax, trust the driver and enjoy the ride. It's not every day you get the chance to ride in an expensive Italian sports car.
That's what the parents of the Steamboat Springs High School girls tennis team did this week. I'm sure it was not easy - but then it's never easy being a parent.
My guess is that winning a state title probably wasn't the most difficult thing to do this weekend in Pueblo City Park, and I guarantee it wasn't the most important thing, either.
The state championships were a chance for our children to find success and learn lessons on the tennis court. In the real world, parents are not concerned about titles. They just want their children to be happy. It's a difficult goal to reach, but the reward comes from trying to get there.
- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org