Regular readers of this column know there are occasions when the lighter side of life has been overshadowed enough to prompt the flip-side of humor: reflection.




As I sat in front of the computer this morning, I realized that this was one of those times.




There are a number of privileges that go with being a columnist and sports editor for a small newspaper. Among them is the opportunity to talk with coaches and athletes throughout the season. Some of the most striking conversations I've had have taken place in dugouts or along muddy sidelines &

impromptu conversations that offer up a momentary glimpse of the person beneath the ball cap or behind the face mask. Those moments don't often make it to the printed page; they are filed away in a mental scrapbook that, at some point in my life, I'll spread out and sift through with great reverence.




There is also another scrapbook &

one that isn't quite as pleasant, but just as revealing as those momentary exchanges beyond the bleachers. Within it are snapshots of parents who seem to pin their own self-worth &

and that of their child's &

on the outcome of a pass.




A hit.




A basket.




A bad call.




These moments aren't exclusive to any one school, any particular grade level. As a quiet observer, I've seen parents from both visiting teams and home teams, high school and middle school, screaming instructions from behind the backstop or from the sidelines as their children shoulder the burden of their parents' need to win along with their own desire to do their best.




As a parent, I understand the desire of wanting to see your kids do well. There's nothing more inspiring to me than watching parents work with their kids at the park or in the front yard, passing along to them tips and advice about throwing a ball or shooting a basket.




And even for those parents who cross the line between enthusiasm and fanaticism, I must applaud the fact that they are there at the games for their children. Yet, after listening to some of those same parents yell obscenities at opposing teams and game officials, I'm forced to ask the true motivation for coming to their children's events.




More than a lesson in winning and losing, sports is about learning to be part of a team and, ironically, standing alone. It's about preparation and commitment, and the experience of taking what you've learned and putting it into practice when it really matters &

it's a dress rehearsal for adulthood that allows our children to experience the pressure and decision-making that they will eventually face as adults.




For parents, it is an opportunity to prepare ourselves for that June day when our children move beyond earshot, and out into the world &

where there are no backstops to crouch behind, and no sidelines to coach from.




While, as parents, we should certainly savor every moment we can in preparing our children and teenagers for "the big game," we should also savor that moment when they step into the key, out of the pocket or onto the field without us.




As in later life, we should cheer when they succeed and allow them to make mistakes on their own &

without belittling their efforts through verbal attacks on opposing players, coaches or officials. When we allow that to happen, we overshadow the efforts of our children by inserting ourselves into a moment &

hit or miss, win or lose &

that we should respect enough to let them have to themselves.




Because they are our children, we should be proud; be enthusiastic; be supportive; but still be aware of those moments that belong to our sons and daughters.




You can write to at at the Siuslaw News at P.O. Box 10, Florence, OR 97439, or visit his Web site at .