This Column Is for the Parents of Graduating High School Athletes

Tower Hill v Sanford boys lacrosse in a matchup this spring at Tower Hill School. Photography by Steve Boyden.

High school sports are winding down their spring tournament seasons, which means this is the end of the road for most of the senior athletes who are competing in their various sports.

Some will play sports in college, but for the majority of the seniors, this is it. They may play in intramurals in college or in some recreation league afterward, but as far as playing organized sports for an institution, that ends when they get their diplomas.

But it’s not just the athletes who are suddenly faced with the prospects of no more long, grueling practices and boring off-season programs. Their parents have also come to the end of an era, and this column is dedicated to them.

Sanford senior Trent Wall with his parents Robert and Toni as well as his olrder brother. ©2019 Ted Rosenthal/Izmaddy Studios

You know who you are. You’re the ones who drove them to swim practice at dawn and shivered (or baked) in the bleachers while they competed in soccer, football or tennis. You sat through those endless swimming or track and field events that lasted for hours even though your kid only actually competed for a few minutes.

All smiles for as Tower Hill School Singles 1 champion Robby Ward thanks his opponent Rishi Gundakaram, of Caesar Rodney High School. Both will play college tennis.

And you had to deal with what is perhaps the hardest part of those marathon meets – pretending to care how the other parents’ kids performed.

And to think it all started when they were 4 years old and played YMCA soccer and basketball and Little League T-ball. It was cute back then when everybody played the same amount of time and nobody cared who won. The most important thing to those kids was the quality of the post-game snacks.

Then, as the years went by, the winnowing process began. The kids who were less gifted or less motivated started to drop out and suddenly playing time and winning games became much more important. And if your kid was one of the talented and determined ones, you found yourself driving to Frostbite Falls, Minn., for a traveling team volleyball tournament and staying in some Motel 6 and eating at McDonald’s.

Not only that, there’s a good chance your kids played their sport 12 months of the year, which means you got no break. Regular meal times were a thing of the past, of course, and you had to keep a separate calendar to keep track of all of their practices and games, and even family vacations revolved around their sports schedules.

Sanford senior Hannah Bescript will start at the University of Delaware in the fall. ©2019 Ted Rosenthal/Izmaddy Studios

Your only solace was to sit in the bleachers with the other parents and complain about it all – the time, the effort and, of course, the money.

Over the years, parents spend lots and lots of money on their kids’ athletic pursuits, and the better they are and the further they advance, the more it costs. Many of those parents hope their kids will eventually get a college scholarship, which would end up making that long weekend in Lynchburg, Va., for a field hockey tournament an investment. But those are the exceptions.

And there’s no way to avoid it. It’s just a fact of life in the 21st Century – if your kids don’t play All-Star or traveling team or AAU sports, there’s a good chance they are going to be left behind. If your kids don’t dedicate themselves to their sports on a full-time basis, they are going to get beat out by kids who do. It’s a reality that parents and athletes must deal with. Sad, but true.

But now, for the parents of most of those seniors, the long and winding road is ending. Even if their kids play sports in college, they won’t have to worry about feeding them and transporting them. And, if that college is far enough away, they probably won’t even make all of their games, something that was unthinkable in the past.

Sanford senior Lauren Park Lane – Delaware’s girls HS player of the year, heading to Seton Hall on a D1 scholarship – with her family and Coach Marcus Thompson. ©2019 Ted Rosenthal/Izmaddy Studios

So, this is a happy time for those parents and a sad time. As much as you hated sitting through a hot and dusty (and probably boring) baseball game in the middle of July, as much as you dreaded that long drive to yet another traveling team tournament, you also know, as masochistic as it sounds, that you will miss it. It’s been a big part of your life for a long time, there have been a lot of highs and lows, and you will miss it.

But here is some consolation: As somebody who went through it many years ago, I can tell you this – the missing it part doesn’t last for very long.

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About the Contributor

Kevin Noonan

Kevin Noonan

Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.