As I am accompanying my third grader to his hockey championship yesterday, I had an epiphany -again- at how different the culture I grew up in (French) and the one I live in (US) are, and I have come to understand a thing or two.
For weeks I take him to his games on Sundays. The first time I heard a dad yell “Go get it Joey”, I thought “What an overenthusiastic Dad”, but then Josh’s and Jonah’s and Jakey’s parents all got into it too. That’s when I realized I should probably get into it. The problem is, I wasn’t really sure I knew what was going on. I figured out the rules pretty quickly, after all I grew up in soccer country where we also have goalies and a ball instead of a puck. It pretty much boils down to the same set of rules.
For me these games became a time to think and compare (cultures, that is) and laugh internally. My initial reaction at these games was “Are these parents crazy?” Growing up in Paris, we never had competitive sports like that. Even if you take your kid to play a game, you don’t worry if she wins or loses; the point is to have fun. No one I knew growing up chose a high school or college based on what kind of team the school has. Yes we are soccer country, but unfortunately, unless you are a pro, being into sports means you mostly play casually with other kids after school or on Sundays in one of the local parks, without coaches, water bottles with logos, or personalized jerseys. But mostly it means we watch it on TV.
But that gets me thinking. Perhaps this craziness about winning in sports at a young age is why America has the number one economy in the Western world? Kids are taught not just to play; they are taught the value of teamwork and of respect on the playing field. The desires to be part of the team and to win are ingrained at a young age. Children are taught the value of ambition and success. They are exposed to the benefits of teamwork. You don’t just play to have fun. That’s just selling yourself short. You play to create something, to create value. In business terms, the teams that are created at these games are a complete synergy. No kid on his own, including the best player, is a hockey player without the team. But together they have created something, a game, a bond that will exist for a while, and even (let’s not knock it) some great fun.
And when my son’s team won the Championship yesterday and was handed that trophy that he was so proud of, even cynical-me had to hold back the tears.