Friday, May 06, 2005

Far Western Volleyball 2005 pt. 3

I know it's a little late to be still talking about Far Westerns. I had a deal I couldn't resist, the White House promised me a free daily press pass if I'd write some jokes for the First Lady's appearance at the Correspondents' dinner.

I know the volleyball scene in Top Gun is the only segue I have for this, but how many kinds of wrong is this Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes thing? Let’s see, early in his career, Tom Cruise was linked with Cher and Mimi Rogers (Austin Powers’s mother in law) which means we can now do one of those six degrees of dating separation betweeen Katie Holmes and Sonny Bono, Greg Allman, and Lenny Kravitz. Tom Cruise is from the Brat Pack generation. Katie Holmes is a Gen Y starlet. If she must see another celebrity she needs to be with Josh Hartnett. Before you know it, we’ll be seeing Ashton Kutcher with Molly Ringwald or Ally Sheedy....or Paula Abdul with Anthony Federov, can you imagine anything like that? The time space continuum shattered, we'll all be living in Pleasantville.Even sadder for me, I can remember Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra and once saw Harold and Maude in a movie theater.

Part of being a volleyparent is about coming to terms with our place in the generational order of things. At some point it has to dawn on us that we are now the ones doing the watching at family athletic events.

In general, this happens pretty naturally unless you happen to be in the San Francisco Giants starting lineup. Most of us came from a time when we played most sports without parents or coaches. As adults, we drive our children hundreds of miles, pay thousands of dollars, and spend all this time with water bottles and coolers just so they can have “proper” instruction and parents who watch and remember every single digicammed moment along with them.

I was watching a 16’s match at Regionals and was very shocked to see, of all things, an underhand serve. One of the joys of playground/uncoached sports was all the funky techniques there are for shooting basketballs, throwing baseballs, doing triple lutzes. So, these odd ways of doing things destroy any chance these kids had of getting a scholarship or playing at a higher level, etc. there was still a kind of joy to the sheer individuality of it all.

The sandlot was a place where kids got to be creative, spontaneous, and meet James Earl Jones. Okay, I won’t start on one of those let kids be kids rants, but there are days when it strikes me that the only thing that’s the same from non-little league sports of my youth is arguing about bad calls and what fun is that when you actually have refs? I have to mention that the last day of regionals can be surprisingly boring. What I thought would be a really interesting match between Yahoo 15 and Jammers looked more like, “What the heck, we both have bids.” either that or Yahoo was just that good. There was an Empire 16 vs. Golden Bear revenge match that Golden Bear won, while Empire got to do its “Well actually we’re a Festival team mantra.” Golden Bear has a great libero who always seems to appear out of nowhere behind the front row players.

There was also a huge crowd around two Vision matches. In one with Mizuno Long Beach, it seemed that everyone came to bear witness to the power of prepvolleyball lists. Beach has the current version of a prep volleyball rock star. Parents and players were three to four deep around the court and why are all these parents in front of me like 6’5" and that’s just the moms? Fwiw, I was really impressed with the player and the teams, but wondering if the “star” system in junior sports is a good thing at all. Isn’t it about letting all kids have that fantasy of stardom while they still can, even if they hit sidearm or pass off of one foot?

Finally, I didn’t want to talk about it, but since this one was already broached pretty openly there was the whole Stand of the Steadfast Six thing with one 16’s team. It was indeed a great accomplishment and certainly presented one of those dilemmas in how we talk about junior sports.

I'm an unsteady enough parent to know that it could have been or could be one of my own kids. I wouldn’t want 5,000 people at a tournament talking about it nor would I want people speculating about what should happen to them, my obvious incompetence as a parent, etc. I can’t however resist saying though that if you’re going to hold a tournament in a city filled with bars and casinos, what the heck do you expect?

I hope this doesn’t prompt the Eppersons to slam my DSL line or something. But, this is the point gurgling through my mind....(after you drive to two tournaments in 9 days, that’s all your mind does), a heck of a lot was said about how it all made qualifying really dramatic and whether or not the Six should have to play as six at regionals (they didn’t) the next week. Not a lot was said about being a parent in these situations.

How often do we check in with our kids about what and how they are really doing instead of about whether they prefer playing rightside to middle? Are they actually having fun playing volleyball? Is all this time we seem to be spending with our kids really making us better more effective parents and bringing us closer to them? What happened to, it was a great tournament because I really got to have a great talk with my daughter while her team waited four hours for NCVA to straighten out the pool assignments? If we keep measuring our Club experience in terms of volleyball versions of Lebron James, I suggest that we’d be better off giving our kids their sandlots or sandcourts back and maybe getting some activities of our own where they sit around watching us.

Most kids come home from tournaments having lost at least as often as they won. That’s never going to change. What are we making sure they get out of it? Most of them will never be 6’4” 15 year olds with backrow skills, even if those are the vast majority of parents hanging out on this site waiting for someone to mention their kid’s name on some list. Do we wait for those lists because we’ve lost track of who she really is? As parents we need to get out of the business of being Leigh Steinberg and Leonard Armato and back to being Andy Griffith, Julia, or even Jed Clampett, though Ellie Mae probably did have major hops. Look at Opie, he never qualified for Open, and he’s now a famous bald movie director. I have no idea what happened to O.J. Waggedorn btw. Aren’t we lucky to have Nickelodeon to give us common memories with our kids? Think about it, even Jerry Mcguire wound up getting perspective.


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