You would think that good sportsmanship is a given, that as parents we are old enough to know better than to boo a young wrestler, a coach or a team. We want to teach our kids to be respectful, play fair, respect the referees and the opponents. After all, every match begins with a handshake between the opponents. And it is supposed to end with a handshake to the opposing team's coach.
I have watched wrestlers so upset with a loss they throw the headgear, stomp off and ignore the ritual of shaking the hand of the other coach. On occasion, some of our own wrestlers have behaved this way. And Coach Powell lets him have it. I think I have seen it happen a handful times since Weldon was a freshman in 2003.
But for some teams, astonishingly, not shaking the hand of the competing coach is the standard practice. It is what the coaches endorse. It is a statement that the other team does not deserve respect. I find that sad.
And a terrible lesson to teach young men.
Graciousness and humility in the face of loss is what makes any one of us strong. Mat rage and stand rage-- parents trash talking, booing, shouting obscenities to wrestlers and other parents-- is what makes us small.
It takes a conscious effort on the part of the parents to decide what kind of parents we will be and how we will behave. We cheer for our kids, not against someone else's. Even when the parents behind us boo other teams and other parents' sons. It is what we hope our kids see. That this is how we choose to be.
The sign of a strong person is how he or she faces adversity, upset, disappointment, loss. A measure of character is how you behave when you have no control. I have been taught those lessons often.
This was an extremely tough week for Colin, who suffered a severe concussion two weeks ago and was not cleared by the doctors in time for regionals. He was hoping he would be; he wasn't, and I was surprised at how deeply I felt disappointed for him. I know how much it meant to him, but I was tied up in it too. I wanted him to be with his team, helping them move ahead, but I also wanted to see his hand in the air in victory again this season. I really wanted to be in the stands with my good friends screaming Colin's name as well as their sons' names. I wanted us all to win. I love that feeling.
Even without Colin competing, I was there with our team in the stands, cheering on the Huskies. It was a good day, we came in 2nd, not first, so there will be no chance for Team State, when Colin was hoping to be cleared in time to compete. But seven of his friends and teammates are going on to sectionals, a huge group of victories. There will be more chances to be with other parents, as the stakes get higher, the tensions increase and parents can be seen behaving badly. Not all, actually, only a few. But it is enough.
Which brings me to the Ten Commandments for Wrestling Moms and Dads. No disrespect meant to the original Ten, this is just a light-hearted parody. Here is a set of rules to follow so that more of our kids can be proud of who we are and the examples we lend.
1. You shall have no other team before your child's.
Of course you can attend the events for your nieces, nephews, neighbors and friends' children. But never forget where your real loyalty lies and cheer for the child you came to cheer for, and never cheer against your own team.
2. You shall not display any high school team likeness or logo in your home, on your car or person other than your own team's. Of course when your other children go to college, you can wear those colors, and the colors of your own alma mater. But do not under any circumstance show up at a dual or tournament with the logo of an opposing team on your person.
3. You shall never boo at any tournament, meets or matches. Simply unacceptable, this is high school sports, not professional sports. Save your hate and your venom for the pros. These are in some cases 13-year-old kids. Know they have feelings. Know the impact of your vitriol on their well-being. Shame on you if you boo and if someone on your team ever boos another kid, coach or team, pull them aside and tell the parent to just plain old stop acting like a jerk.
4. Remember to keep the weekends of Individual and Team State free of obligatons and book a hotel room early. If your child makes it this far, for goodness sake, you don't want to have any other entanglement in your way.
5. Honor your child's coach and coaching staff. They may see your athlete more during the day than you do. Know it is a tough job. Be kind. Do not tell the coach what to do, do not tell the coach how to do his job. Respect the bond between your son and the coach; do not be jealous of it, but supportive.
6. Thou shalt not use mean words against your child's opponent. As bad as a boo, encouraging your son to "kill him," ""pin his ass," or "wipe him on the mat," makes you look foolish. No cussing, no derogatory remarks and for sure no death words. These are kids.
7. Thou shalt not make huge delicious dinners while your child is making weight. Grill some chicken, steam some vegetables, chill the Gatorade. It is just plain cruel to have the house smell like lasagna or apple pie on a Friday night when your son is trying to make weight the next day.
8. You shalt not steal or shortchange the other team's concessions. It gets busy back there for the volunteers, and they may forget to charge you for the hot dog. Do not walk away with a smirk. Leave an extra dollar. They do it to raise money for their team. Help them out as you want to have your team helped out.
9. You shall not inflate your child's wrestling record. Don't say he is undefeated (unless he is and for goodness sake if so, then get a t-shirt that says so), don't turn a close match into a tech if it wasn't. All the stats are online anyway, so you just look like a blowhard.
10. Thou shalt not covet your wrestler's team gear. Sometimes their warm-ups would look fabulous on you. Don't cop the t-shirt or the sweats. Get your own. It helps raise money for the team. And every team needs as much financial help as it can get.
And remember to scream your son's name, your team's name. And never, ever, ever boo.