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Andy Prest: The thrill, and agony, of watching your kids get better at sports than you

As parents get older, their sporty kids get better. And then one day, it hits you 🥊
Baseball pic web
Members of the North Shore Bears play at the 13U AA provincial championships hosted by the North Shore Baseball Association July 28-31.

Few parenting moments combine pride and shame quite like the day you realize you can no longer dominate the kids in any and all sports.

One of the great joys of parenting is passing your passion for sports on to the next generation. It’s so much fun watching them slowly learn and improve as they grow, always pushing their limits to explore and expand the capabilities of their bodies.

And it can start early. My oldest son was a perpetual motion machine basically from birth. He’d lie on his back in his crib and his legs would be in constant motion, like he was riding a tiny invisible bicycle. The throwing motion comes naturally for babies too, as is clearly evident when watching high chair quarterbacks in motion as they throw whatever is within reach across the kitchen in a classic game of “Pick that up. Thanks! Pick that up. Thanks! Pick that up. Thanks!”

Soon enough they are walking, and then you can drop a ball at their feet and it’s game on for toddler soccer. Or for many cold-weather Canadians, if the kid is old enough to stand, they are old enough to skate or ski.

And then there’s the first time you throw something to them and they legitimately reach their little hands out and catch it. Magical! You have created something that can catch! The thrill of that feeling has never left me, and playing a game of catch with my kids is still one of my absolute favourite things to do.

And so many other sports get better and better as you enjoy them with your kids and they begin to become proficient at them. The progression from a little toddler dunking on a tiny basketball hoop to a kid challenging you to a game of horse on the big hoop is an incredible one to experience. And how much fun is it to watch a kid get better and better at table tennis? Or bocce? Or golf?

Through it all, the parenting experience is taken to ever greater heights by your quiet but unwavering belief that in any of these sports, you can demolish your children at any time. Is the score of your one-on-one basketball game a little too close? Time to go into Mutombo mode and use your two-foot height advantage to swat their next five shots into the fence. Another win for daddy!

Or is your seven-year-old having a tough time against another team of pushy soccer players? You know deep down that you could hop in there at any time, deke those little brats over and over again until they fall in a heap, and then slot in the game winner for a famous one vs. six daddy demolishing.  Or is your kid getting pretty good at pickleball, keeping it close with their young spry legs? Time to hammer their backhand side with the next 10 shots and watch their win percentage, and their will to compete against you, dwindle to zero, one mis-hit at a time.

“Don’t worry kid, there’s no shame in losing to the best. I’ll get ya some ice cream!”

I now, however, have gladly/sadly reached the point in my life where I don’t think I could hop into one of my kid’s games and go Lebron on everybody. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d have no chance.

Over the weekend the North Shore Baseball Association hosted the 13U AA provincial championships, their volunteers working hard to put on a great tournament for some of the best young players in B.C. My son was on the host team, and as I watched them battle these tough teams, I couldn’t help but think that these kids are now old enough to absolutely destroy your average dad. You want to pitch to that No. 4 hitter, pops? You’re either going to plunk him, walk him, or he’s hitting one off the scoreboard.

And good luck at the plate facing one of these ace pitchers, who all seemed to have received shoulder cannons for their 11th birthdays. Go ahead and try to hit that fastball – you’re going to look foolish.

Every parent knows this day will come, but that doesn’t lessen the slight sting and immense joy of watching your children do things that you know you could never do again, things that would earn your creaky body a stretcher ride to the ER.

Your family would gather around your hospital bed, saying a quiet healing prayer for your blown hammy.

“You OK, pop?”

“I’m better than OK. I’m great, and so are you. Way to go, kid.” 

Andy Prest is the sports and features editor of the North Shore News. His lifestyle/humour column runs biweekly.

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