If you’re like me and are following your high school kid so quickly with the long and emotional stride toward “pomp and circumstance,” you’ll also understand the real complex emotions of knowing that it’s almost over and you The forward-moving schedule is no longer tied to the whims of classroom bells, sports schedules or playoff grids. Grief can overwhelm in expected and unexpected ways, in some ways worse than the end of your own game day, signaling a sea change in family dynamics and emotions.
I’m sure my experience is by no means unique, so I emailed my Globe colleagues to see what others thought about the subject that Chad Finn wrote so eloquently last year.
The great Bob Hohler said it beautifully: “One of the great joys of my life is cheering for my daughter [Lauren] when she played hockey and basketball in concord [N.H.] high school, then watch her come of age using the tools she acquired in high school sports.
“The game may end, but the lessons live.”
If you know you know, that particular brand of insanity about keeping up with a busy, active kid (or kids) schedule, what it’s like to turn your family car into a taxi service with caked-on dirt on it and ice cream stains, having to learn to navigate highways and byways with the help of Waze and Google Maps, being forced to find patience waiting for weather delays or waiting for the air conditioner to kick in, and sitting around for extra hours, overtime, tiebreakers, and shootouts.
You know you’re going to miss it, but you also know that none of it will ever really go away.
Lessons learned through team sports, especially at the high school level, last forever when you team up with friends and classmates to represent your town and community. They spark memories that are ready to burst at any moment, whether they happened last week, last month, last year or decades ago, they are very vivid. It’s no wonder stories of abusive coaches or ugly sideline behaviors hit so hard, because those of us lucky enough to have positive experiences, which I believe far outweigh negative ones, know how precious those sports days can be.
Close your eyes, what do you see?
To me, it was a big yellow bus filled with hardback benches and sticky vinyl seats, with three-seaters on one side of the aisle and two-seaters on the other. The wheel wells take up valuable legroom, and the latches on the windows won’t open.
The stench of these rides alone is enough to peel off the bright yellow paint on the outside of the bus, a strange, horrible concoction of sweat, grime, anticipation and anxiety.
They are the worst.
Except they are the best.
The songs we sing, the cheers we sing, the goals we score, the heights we climb, working independently within a system towards a common goal. What’s better than exercise?
While many teammates go on to play in college, for most of us, the truth is that the end of high school marks the end of the road to competitive sports. The indelible mark left behind, whether it’s a championship season or a winless season, a game-winning goal or a missed free throw, can guide us through life. Treat success and failure equally, learn humility in the joy of victory, and perseverance in failure. Who doesn’t need these abilities when entering the workplace or forming adult relationships?
After his Florida Panthers lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final, I was recently moved by Paul Morris’ words when the coach spoke directly about the ethos that was built in our earliest sports days, and watching To what it means to him through his disappointed but tight-knit professional locker room.
“You get cynical when you’re old, right? Professional sports can do that,” he said.
“The game is amazing. It’s beautiful, but the best part about sports, for all the things you want kids to learn in sports, for all the great character stories, [they] Been in that room this year since training camp. Sometimes we talk casually, but that group loves each other every day. The way they treat each other. Totally destroyed any cynicism I had about professional sports. It’s a great thing to watch and see every day. At least, it’s a career affirmation for me. “
When he added one more thought, the feeling kept going back to my high school days in track and football. “I love these guys. They gave me a great year of my life.”
Great year, great four years. Even when they’re over, the truth is, they’ll always be a part of us. If we are lucky.
Tara Sullivan is a columnist for The Globe. She can be reached at email@example.com.Follow her on Twitter @Globe_Tara.
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