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HAGER: LAX for Dummies: Learning to love your kid's sport of choice

• Apr 26, 2018 at 3:00 PM

Lacrosse season is upon us!

I mean this as the sort of call and response some of us are hearing in church during these 50 days of Easter, but I can’t seem to think of a fitting response, as “the Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!” is already taken.

My girls play lacrosse, and so I’ve had about three years to sort of get my act together and figure out what no one tells you when you come out of the auditorium after a pleasant, warm band concert, blinking in the bright light of kids who suddenly want to play sports.

The first thing is that lacrosse is an early spring sport. This means that come game night it could be 70 or it could be snowing. My older daughter is pretty sure she almost died at practice on Monday of this week, a day when the thermostat in my car registered 79 degrees. Keep in mind that the previous Monday was a snow day. This about covers weather at LAX games.

The next bit of intel is that metal bleachers hurt your butt and your legs. Unless they happen to be frozen — in which case, keep calm, you’ll go numb eventually. Any barrier between you and the metal is a good thing. Unfortunately, it took many pairs of wet pants (amazingly no one wipes these off with a clean white cloth before a game!), a couple of backaches and frostbite on my thighs to figure this out. A blanket is great, but fold-up beach chairs are better (and in most places these teams play you get to be closer to the action). I’m really in the market for one of those stadium chairs with a back on it — stay tuned on that.

Game nights wreak havoc on family life. When the adults need to leave work, you’re racing to Grandville and, finally, at about 8 p.m. realize no one has eaten and you’re 45 minutes from home — that’s the moment someone will announce they have three hours of homework to do.

If game nights are hard, tournaments are harder.

I know I’m not the one playing three games against teams of varying skill levels. I know no one is asking me to actually pick up my feet and run anywhere. But tournament days are hard for parents, too. Take this Saturday, for example. We need to be in Grand Rapids at about 7:30 (yes, in the morning). Our younger daughter plays three morning games and then our older one will play three games, with her last game scheduled at 6:50 p.m. (yes, in the evening!).

Today, I bought a fold-up wagon with big wheels that fits in my car. I bought this wagon because last year at the same tournament we will spend the day at Saturday I didn’t have a wagon and my 9-year-old and I ended up slogging at least 5 miles, carrying 36 chairs, 22 LAX sticks, two coolers and one umbrella. And that was only one way!

Of course I’m kidding, but I’m anticipating it will be much easier to put chairs, coolers, jackets and all the other detritus that gets handed to mom into my handy wagon and just pull that baby the 5 miles instead.

Go easy on the water — facilities may be hard to locate or not even open for the season yet. Put some blankets to cover your people with and some jackets and an umbrella in your wagon, and keep your phone charged as you learn to navigate what may be a newish sport. Google has informed me of so many helpful LAX rules.

This may sound like ranting from a person who prefers warm auditoriums and lovely vocal arts concerts. And in a way it is, but really it isn’t. And if you already stopped reading and are giving me dirty looks on Saturday, I’ll know why.

The thing is, nothing beats watching your kid do something she loves. Nothing can match the warm blanket under your thighs as the sun sets on the Grand River and paints the whole world gold. There is no sweeter cry than your team cheering for your team, no greater moment that when your kid gets the ball and runs with it.

So what if the concession stand coffee isn’t great? I’ve brought my own.

I’m proud of my girls and the grit they’ve shown, the work they’ve put in to learn to play this sport, especially when all I expected was to take in a nice high school play. I’m proud of my husband, that finally his not-sons have shown some of his amazing athletic ability. And I’m proud of myself for stepping out of that warm auditorium armed and ready to cheer on another Laker victory.

Saturday will be a long day, but we’ll be together, pulling our wagon from field to field as the bright morning light changes to noon-day light, and then to the glow and gloaming of early evening. And it will be an amazing day, because our kids will be doing work they love alongside dedicated coaches and staff.

May the sunshine warm upon your bleachers, may your bathrooms be open and your kid not forget her mouthguard. Go Lakers!

— By Alicia Hager, Tribune community columnist

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