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How to Be a Sports Mom

Photograph by Getty Images

I am so not into sports. I do not follow March Madness. I cannot figure out why there is both a White Sox and a Red Sox baseball team, and if they have anything to do with one another. I avoid Super Bowl parties, because I never know who is playing and I never care.

Hockey, soccer, horse racing, swimming, bowling ... whatever the sport, not only am I oblivious, but happily so. Despite all this, somehow I ended up married to a sports fanatic. For the first few years of our marriage, this disparity was just an annoying detail. He’d walk into a room and turn on ESPN Radio; I’d walk into a room and fight the urge to turn it off. Our first child was a boy, but happily he’s like me; as uncoordinated as a toddler balancing on a seesaw, and just as turned off by athletics.

Then we had our second son. As I write this, E., who is now 12, sits in his room listening to a sports podcast. Later, on a break from his homework, he will throw balls against a backyard wall for a quarter-hour. His idea of a great afternoon is baseball practice until the sun sets, and he loves nothing more than to plop down on the family room couch with his dad and watch hour after hour of televised games.

It’s one thing to refuse to share your husband’s obsession. It’s another thing entirely to devalue your kid’s passion. So I am learning to adjust. Here's how I do it.

1. Volunteer to be the Team Mom. Or the Team Rep. Or whatever they call the person who facilitates communication between the coach and the parents, and maintains the after-game snack list. No matter how often your kid looks over during a game to see you staring into the distance with glazed eyes, he still knows you’re involved. If he asks afterward what you were doing, just tell him you were composing the next team email in your head.

2. Pay attention when your kid has the ball. Develop a supernatural ability to look up from your novel, iPhone app or daydream just at the moment the spotlight lands on your child. That night at the dinner table, elaborate on the precision with which your daughter’s right foot connected with that soccer ball, and how far she sent it flying. Then, when discussion turns to the only goal of the game, which you missed because you were checking out the latest headlines on NYTimes.com, you can keep comfortably silent.

3. Get your kid to every game and every practice on time. Nothing says, “Boy, this is a big yawn to me” like arriving 5, 10, or 15 minutes late each time.

4. Learn a bit of lingo. Check me out—I can now tell right field from left. I know when the ump is calling a ball, or a strike. Heck, I even know to call the umpire “ump.” This may seem elementary to many baseball fans, but for me it’s called devotion to my son.

5. Remind him to keep his eye on the prize. You have now entered a sports-obsessed world, filled with people who actually believe that these kids have a chance at the big time. Enter you, The Realist. Remind your child that the big goal here is graduating high school and enrolling in college, star athlete or no, sport or no sport. In the meantime, you can tell him what the coaches and the sports-crazed other parents often forget to mention: HAVE FUN.

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