Monday, March 12, 2007

Touched the fantasy

Your imagination will wander. Your imagination will then mingle with your expectations, till your buried aspirations, hopes, and regrets until a fantasy sprouts. You'll fertilize the fantasy with occasional indulgence.

That's my story anyway.

Many parents get to live out some long lost opportunity through their children's activities. How else can you explain parental behavior at things like youth athletics? Most parents are genuinely well adjusted and manage to enjoy the experience without losing it and I'll leave it at that since we all know (ahem) about the few that can't manage the distinction between a kid's activity and their own fantasy world.

Yet, as you sit there in the stands watching, or as you review the games in your head, or discuss what happened with other parents, you get the full range of emotional value as if you could go out on the ice, or the field, or take over the chess board yourself. Except you can't. It's best if you keep your own coaching to a minimum and let the kid dictate how s/he manages skill and play development.

There you are then, keeping thoughts to yourself and in those quiet moments before sleep or those odd times between tasks the whole imagination, expectations, fantasy complex takes over and you let it go. Not much later your kid is the one scoring the GWG that leads to that scholarship that leads to a degree and a fat contract with a team plus they'll have perfect spouses and kids of their own and they buy a nice safe place for you to live and the world is most wonderful.

Along the way you see yourself as the successful player, coach, mentor. It's your fantasy after all and it's certainly as relaxing as reading a book.

Reality, of course, is closer to a rolling train wreak. It's a rare moment in a person's life when they get to touch the fantasy even in a fleeting, abstract way. I had my moment when the kid put together a 3-on-3 hockey team for a weekend tournament at the last minute. The phone rang at work on a Friday afternoon and I was informed I was the "coach."

My "team" consisted of my son, an experienced hockey player, one other experienced player, another kid who hadn't played hockey in two years and another kid who never played hockey. Oh, and me, their coach, who also never played hockey and has never coached anything. Our competition were teams made up of all experienced high school age players.

Game one made me mad. I didn't have a lot of expectations but I did expect the guys to try. I never planned on talking to them in the locker room later but I did anyway giving myself that Knute Rockne moment that was probably closer to begging. None the less, I made the point that they had embarrassed themselves pretty badly in front of all their friends.

Games two, three and four all ended in losses but we reduced the bleeding and even scored a goal in the final game. The guys worked their butts off and I had a blast trying to keep a good rotation going and providing positive encouragement.

Coaching isn't something I want to do routinely. I'm not qualified to mention one thing. Still, I had my moment to coach a hockey team. The event was no fantasy but I got that faintest of touches. It's something I'll think about in those moments before sleep, you know?