In the winter of 1997, I was six years old and playing my first year of basketball for Salem Parks and Recreation. I was on the yellow team — seriously, we didn’t even have a team name.
One of the days where we had a game, my dad had scored tickets to go see the Portland Trail Blazers take on the Utah Jazz. I fully assumed that he was going to miss my my game to go to an NBA game. I mean, why wouldn’t he?
It wasn’t even just a normal NBA game. It was the Utah Jazz. It was Karl Malone and John Stockton. It was the best team in the Western Conference. He even had suite level tickets.
But when the ball tipped off at Sumpter Elementary, my dad was right there in the front row cheering me on.
At the time, I had a hard time wrapping my head around this. Watching the Blazers must have been a way better option than witnessing a bunch of clueless six year olds run amuck at an elementary school, playing a game they barely understood. Yet, he decided to come to my game instead.
When we got home I bluntly asked my dad why he didn’t go to the Blazer game. He simply responded: “I just wanted to watch you play more.”
It took a few years for his response to really resonate for me.
For the next 11 years, the vast majority of my social activities revolved around sports. I spent countless amounts of hours on football fields, basketball courts and baseball diamonds.
No matter when, where or what sport I was playing, my parents were always in attendance.
Seriously. There’s no single instance I can remember without at least one of my parents attending a game. Every time I would seek them out in the stands, they would always be there.
My dad literally drove more than six hours to watch me play a football game in 19-degree weather my sophomore year of high school.
He would also drive me to AAU and travel-baseball tournaments all throughout junior high.
And when he was forced to be tied up with work or be involved with other fatherly duties, my mom would be the one to pick up the slack — and her ear-piercing scream whenever I did something remotely positive could be heard throughout the county.
The reason I share this is not to tell you about my less-than-memorable athletic career, it is to convey the importance of going to your kids’ games.
If you’re a parent of a McNary High School student, going to all of your child’s games just became a lot more difficult in the last year with the addition of Bend, Summit and Mountain View to the same league as the Salem-Keizer high schools.
It may be an impossible task to accomplish. The everyday responsibilities of adult life, plus the potential travel and cost of going to all of your son’s or daughter’s sporting events may seem daunting.
But parents, I implore you to at least try to be at all of your child’s games, regardless of level.
Because it matters.
It matters that you are there to encourage them.
It matters that you are there to celebrate their successful moments and console them during moments of failure.
It matters because it matters to them — even though they might not realize right now — and it will be something that they will always remember.
There are a lot of aspects of my childhood that I don’t recall. But I will forever remember that my parents always showed up to support me.
And I am incredibly grateful for that.