I started off as a young child, playing the game of horses.
It was an endless game for me. I could come up with more combinations, more games, barrel racing, jumping, running the Derby. As a child they were all games I could win.
In my teens, I had a top barrel horse. But I did not compete him too often. He was state champ one year when I was 15. I did not like the anxiety and pressure of competition. After that year, I seldom rode for ribbons again.
A few times in Florida, mostly because we had gotten Ally a top horse and she was too green for Ally to ride, I went in and showed the mare. But mostly, I have choosen to sit on the sidelines and cheer on my kids.
It is hard to compete. You do your best, you practice, you work, but things in the ring do not always go your way. Even when you are a top rider on a top horse. Our Olympic riders did not meet the expectations a lot of the country had for them. They just did not get the rides they needed from the horses they had.
Lauren had two falls last week. Mickey was jumping well, breathing well and Lauren was riding well, except for the two jumps where she fell off. A lot of you have had that perfect barrel run except for tipping a barrel.
It is frustrating, maddening and depressing, especially sometimes to be the parent of the child who is riding. We all want our kids to be successful and yet, we know we cannot all bring home the blue ribbons. Unless we are riding the leadline class and most of us outgrew that a long time ago.
Tonight I salute the parents of the athletes, riders. ballplayers, swimmers, whomever you may be. I know how hard you try to do ever thing possible within your control to help your child be the best. The hours spent learning to play the game (whatever it is), the time spent finding that right horse or equipment, then finding it again as your child moves on. The delicate balance that must exist between the coach, the child and the parent. Watch an episode of “Dance Moms”. Why in the world would they train with that rude woman? Because their kids win. It is simply the most difficult thing I will do (we will do) to know how to support, challenge, promote and back-off from your athletic child.
It is not about money, or strength, or courage, most often it is about love and finding the balance to help your child succeed and keeping them in the game so that at the end of the day, they still can be happy when they do not take home the big trophy or win the big game. Are they still happier on the back of a horse or out in the ball field than anywhere on earth? Then you have given them the best chance you can to know and find happiness. I salute all the parents tonight who wanted the big win so bad it almost made them ill but smiled and hugged their child as they came back to the dug-out after the last at bat. You have given them the best opportunities that you possibly could. They will be richer all their life for thess sorrows they face when “playing the game” (insert riding the horse or whatever is appropriate).