Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sailing Parent

The problems caused by over-enthusiastic parents of kids playing sports are well known. Dads beating up hockey coaches or cursing at little league umpires. Or the more subtle and unseen pressures that parents put on kids to perform. Sailing is not immune to the disease but, thankfully, it does not seem to be as out of control as in some other sports.

I hope I wasn't one of those awful parents. Both of my kids learned to sail in Optis when they were 7 years old and competed in various junior events as they grew up. Of course I took pride in their achievements but I did try to teach them to keep their rare successes (and their more frequent lack of success) in perspective.

I was reminded of my years as an Opti parent when my son and his wife came to visit us the other weekend. Our first grandchild was with them but he or she is not scheduled to be launched until some time in November. While the mum-to-be and her mother-in-law went off to shop at a baby store, C. borrowed my Sunfish and raced in the fleet that meets on our local lake.

As I sat on the dock and watched him race it took me back to the days of watching him race in Opti regattas. Of course, he's a bit bigger now; actually a lot bigger. He won't tell me how much he weighs but it's clearly a lot more than me and I'm 185. He normally crews on a Star and looks like the stereotypical Star crew fat boy. Way too heavy to be competitive in a Sunfish sailing in light airs on a lake, you would think.

Much to my amazement he aced the first race beating the local Sunfish hotshot and all the locals. Swelling with fatherly pride I called him over to the dock after the race, congratulated him and asked him how he did it.

"Well, before the race I sailed up past that point on the East shore where you would normally expect to get a lift and found that instead the winds were all light and squirrely around the point so I went up the other side of the lake on the first beat."

Smart kid, I thought. Takes after me, of course. "Oh, so that expensive college education at MIT wasn't wasted," I joked. C. sailed on the MIT sailing team for 4 years. I sometimes thought he was majoring in sailing instead of engineering.

Later on we were clearing out some of his old papers and came across an essay he had written in middle school. It started, "What happened in the summer of 1989 at Lavallette Yacht Club on Barnegat Bay is without doubt the highest point in my life so far." The essay went on to relate how he had won an Optimist regatta (his first and only such win). The kid was only 11 at the time but even then he attributed his win to being heavier than the other kids. He wrote about his joy in winning but ended it on a modest note by telling how he had only come in fifth in the same regatta the following year.

Winning a regatta was clearly a major thrill for him, "The highest point in my life so far." Better than getting a baby brother? I guess so. Better than moving to America? Apparently. Better than going to Disneyworld? So it seems.

Over dinner the conversation turned to baby names. They don't know and don't want to know the sex of the baby but seem to spend most of the time discussing potential girl names. Claire is the current favorite. Perhaps in the summer of 2013 we will introduce Claire to the Opti. And around 2017 we could be standing on a dock cheering her on in a regatta.

Let's hope we can be good sports parents and grandparents. After all we might find she prefers ballet.


EVK4 said...

MIT? Nice.

My daughter doesn't appear to have a competitive bone in her body. We've spent a lot of time teaching her fairness and kindness. But then on her first day of kindergarten she isn't picked to go the writing table and is pretty bummed out about it. We give her the usual "everyone gets a turn" BS but her little mind must have been churning over this. When I picked her up after her second day, she told me how she timed raising her hand to be the first one and how she got to be at the writing table this time. They seem to figure out the competition and how to win it without parents being pushy being my point.

Now, let's see if our fun "friendly" soccer practice keeps her from being a tiger on the field for her first game in a few weeks.

Baydog said...

Oh my....anybody got a Kleenex?

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