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Confessions and Controversy: Observations On Pre-K Basketball

Sports, Snacks and Mom Confessions

I grew up playing basketball. We played year-round and by middle school, I began traveling and playing most weekends. By the time I hit college, I was playing ball six days a week and in certain seasons we played twice a day. It was a way of life and one I enjoyed. I clearly recall telling my mom I thought Heaven was a basketball court surrounded by an all-you-can-eat gourmet fruit buffet, where you could play and eat all day.

A day finally came when I wanted to discover what life held off the court and outside the gym. Looking back, those gym days were almost 20 years ago; but this year, our 4-year-old started his first season of basketball.

I was giddy when we registered him and ecstatic when he came home with a ball in his hand. His first practice was an adrenaline rush for me. I almost cried happy tears when I saw him in his jersey for the first time. I was eager for him to share the excitement of a crowd cheering him on and I couldn’t wait to watch all that adorable cuteness that only comes from watching 10 four-year-olds trying to figure out what they are doing.

The entire season we had the same referee who knew how to draw in the crowd participation and he kept the game fun for everyone. Every game started with him lining the players up while he would officially announce each team player: “starting for the mighty Mavericks we have All-Star player number two averaging 20 points per game and 10 rebounds…Jjjack!”. I will never forget how he had the crowd singing Christmas carols in rounds through half-time in December or how he would make the crowd chant the kids’ names when shooting free throws. In a time where our country has much political divide, these games were a respite and a beautiful expression of our community coming together to encourage and support our kids.

After our first game, our son was given a sandwich bag with a variety of snacks and a Gatorade. It was a sweet surprise. In my day, we didn’t get many treats, but then it did kind of remind me of that group of soccer moms that would decorate the team’s lockers on game day (Those ladies went all out!). The simple snack made my son feel special and it offered his very cranky younger brothers something to tide them over until we got lunch prepared.

We then received an email with a snack schedule where each team player would be responsible for snacks for their corresponding game. I have a deep desire to be an avid cheerleader for my son and his friends, so I was all in. However, this email didn’t include any more instructions and we were the next up on the snack schedule. I had been a parent long enough to know many kids have allergies to various things like nuts, food dyes, gluten, etc. I was unsure if any of his teammates struggled with allergies. So, I resorted to Pinterest for ideas. What could I send that would be appreciated and safe? In true Pinterest fashion there were so many adorable ideas; draw basketball lines on cutie oranges, adorable basketball themed ribbons and templates for stickers to personalize their bags. I was getting all prepped for a Hobby Lobby run when I saw an article from a fellow mom and nutritionist urging us to please stop with the snacks post game. One article led to another and then another and I quickly realized sports snacks are a controversial topic. Good grief! is nothing simple anymore? My excitement drained as I began to worry that I would offend another mom or be seen as an overachieving mom who was trying to compete and start a mom-war. I settled on the safe route of cutting up fruit in snack size sandwich bags. Fruit is my sons favorite snack anyway, I knew I couldn’t lose on that one. Needless to say, it was a non-issue. From that game on the snacks continued in all different fashions and some weeks they didn’t make it to the game. We appreciated the snacks when we had them and we were fine when we didn’t. We ended the season with hearts glowing and feeling a stronger bond with our son and community as we cheered and supported each player through the season.

Many kids are now on to baseball season. We sat this one out, but my eyes have now been opened to this war against snacks and all things indulgent. I have seen moms I respect and appreciate post comments about how these snacks drive them crazy, and honestly, I snicker at these posts. I get it. We are all busy and sometimes a snack schedule just seems to be one more thing piled on. Or maybe we’ve already been fighting the constant stream of candy in our kids’ hands from Holidays to birthday parties and now games and we want to teach healthier habits. We want our village to pull together and help stop cavities or obesity or working a mother to death.

But I snicker because I have those “I can’t even” moments too. Those moments when you are bombarded with so many tasks and you have to cut something out and then you receive an email and “you can’t even”. My “I can’t even” is labeling diapers for daycare. I currently have three kids in diapers. I would have to label 15 a day! I can’t even! I’m sorry teachers. If it gets confusing and you give little Bobby one of my kid’s diapers because I didn’t label them, I’m cool with that. I’m even willing to pay a diaper fee at the beginning of the year that gives me a pass on labeling so I can be guilt free when I drop off a box of diapers with Weisinger labeled on the top.

So when I see these Mamas struggling with snacks I feel a sense of community with them. It’s nice to know your not alone and we all have to draw the line somewhere.

I had a recent friend actually go to her team and say, “Can we just not do snacks?” She is the ultimate cool mom. She confronted the issue and they rallied together to be a no-snack team.

When I was in the sixth grade we moved to Ohio. Girls basketball was much more competitive than Texas. Most of the girls had been on traveling teams since 4th grade, whereas, I couldn’t even dribble the ball. I remembered my love of the game from a short season I had played many years back in our community league in Texas and I was determined to learn. By 8th grade, I was the starting point guard for the school team and we were undefeated. With each win, our fan base grew. We headed to a local tournament where we were playing in the championship game. The stands were packed and it was a neck and neck game. We were in double overtime and the crowd was emotionally invested. You could feel the crowd hold their breathe when a whistle was blown and we were waiting for the referees call, and the crowd would explode in applause with each basket made. The crowd was cheering and stomping their feet in a way that made those old wood bleachers roar sounding like a large horse stampede. They cheered and chanted with each success and they moaned in mutual disappointment when we lost the ball or missed a shot. It was an exhilarating experience to be the recipient of such an engaged crowd.

Hebrews 12 talks about the great cloud of witnesses we have cheering us on in our race. Hebrews is referring to our life, but it is that game that I visualize when I hear that verse. As exhilarating as that experience was, I can only imagine what the cloud of all the Greats sound like cheering us on every day… I visualize Moses and Abraham and my grandparents and all my loved ones that went too early cheering for me and totally invested in each play I’m making. This is the excitement I so eagerly wanted to share with my son through sports.

Whether you are a snack team or a no snack team it doesn’t matter. Just remember what the game is for; to rally together and cheer on the kids and help teach them about teamwork, encouragement, discipline, disappointment, and success as a community.

PS if my mom confessions were unclear they were:

  1. I love sports
  2. I love snacks after games and the foo-foo themed ribbons and personalizations
  3. I don’t label my kids diapers for daycare and I feel guilty about it
  4. I teared up when I retold the story about the crowd because I can still feel that excitement and I often forget I have a much greater crowd cheering me on daily