Confessions of a Sports Mom
by Judy Bodmer
Condensed from Parents of Teenagers
as printed in Readers Digest May 1996
It's a chilly Saturday in May. I could be home curled up on the couch with
a good mystery. Instead I'm sitting on a cold metal bench in the stands of a
baseball park in Kirkland, Wash. An icy wind creeps through my heavy
winter jacket. I blow on my hands, wishing I'd brought my woolen mittens.
"Mrs. Bodmer?" It's the coach my son Matthew admires so much that he
gave up soda pop to impress him with his fitness. "I'm starting your son today
in right field. He's worked hard this year and I think he deserves the
I'm proud of my son. I know how badly he wants this. I'm glad his hard
work is being rewarded.
Suddenly I'm nervous for him as the team members, in their white pin-striped uniforms, trot onto the field. I search for my son's number. It isn't
there. Instead, Eddie, the most inexperienced player on the team, takes right
field. I look again, unbelieving. How can that be?
I want to run over and ask the coach what's going on, but I know Matthew
wouldn't like that. I've learned the proper etiquette for moms; talking to the
coach is not acceptable unless he initiates it.
My son, gripping the chain-link fence in front of the dugout, is yelling
encouragement to his teammates. I try to read his expression, but I know he,
like most males, has learned to hide his feelings. My heart breaks because he
has worked so hard and received so much disappointment. I don't understand
what drives boys to put themselves through this.
"Atta boy, Eddie," yells his father, proud that his son is starting. I've seen
this same man walk out of games in disgust when his son dropped a ball or
made a bad throw, but, for now, he is proud of his son, who is starting, while
my son is on the bench.
By the fourth inning my fingers are stiff from the cold, and my feet are
numb, but I don't care. Matthew has been called into the game. He stands,
chooses a batting helmet, picks up a bat and struts out to the plate. I grip the
metal seat, he takes a couple of practice swings, The pitcher looks like an
adult, I wonder if anyone checked his birth certificate.
Strike one. "Nice swing!" I yell. The next pitch is a ball. "Good eye! Good
eye!" Strike two. I pray. I cross my fingers. The pitcher winds up. I hold my
breath, Strike three. My son's head hangs, and he slowly walks back to the
dugout. I wish with all my heart I could help. But I know there's nothing I
For eight years I've been sitting here. I've drunk gallons of terrible coffee,
eaten tons of green hot dogs and salty popcorn. I've endured cold and heat,
wind and rain.
Some people may wonder why a sane person would go through this. It's
not because I want to fulfill my dream of excelling at sports through my
kids. I also don't do this for the emotional highs. Oh, yes, I've had some. I've
seen my two sons score winning goals in soccer, hit home runs in baseball,
and spark come-from-behind wins in basketball. I've seen them make some
incredible leaping catches in football. But mostly I've seen heartache.
I've waited with them for that phone call telling them they'd made the
team. The call that never came. I've watched coaches yell at them. I've
watched them sit on the bench game after game. I've sat in emergency rooms
as broken bones were set and swollen ankles X-rayed. I've sat here year after
year observing it all and wondering why.
The game ends. I stretch my legs and try to stomp life back into my frozen
feet. The coach meets with the team. They yell some rallying cry and then
descend on their parents. I notice Eddie's dad has a big grin and is slapping
his son on the back. Matthew wants to get a hamburger. While I wait for
him, the coach approaches me. I can't bring myself to look at him.
"Mrs. Bodmer, I want you to know that's a fine young man you have
"Why?" I ask, waiting for him to explain why he broke my son's heart.
"When I told your son he could start, he thanked me and turned me down.
He told me to let Eddie start, that it meant more to him."
I turned to watch my son stuffing his burger into his mouth. I realized
then why I sit in the stands. Where else can I watch my son grow into a man?