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A Letter from the Bleacher Seats

Dear Farmington mom/fan who sat behind us at the Fulton County middle school volleyball tournament this weekend,

While I admire your dedication to supporting your daughter by being at her game even though you had to as you said, “drive for hours for nothing”, I wonder how truly encouraging it is to her to hear you insult her teammates and opponents. Perhaps you don’t share that with your daughter. Perhaps you keep that as a special treat for anyone sitting near you in the bleachers. For the sake of her self-confidence, I hope that is the case.

First, I feel your pain. With five children, we have driven countless hours to support a team one of our kids were a part of, only to watch our child sit the bench the entire game and then drive hours back home. But we do it to support our kids and to encourage their team. Not everyone gets to start. Not everyone gets to play every game. That’s an important life lesson that society seems to want to gloss over these days. Trust me when I say this, I am all about building up a child’s self-confidence and I will be one of the first to take a stand against someone berating a child because of their lack of athletic ability, but I do feel there are lessons to be learned both on the court and on the bench. We work hard. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. Yes, it’s a whole lot more fun to win, but we work hard and keep our chins up knowing we did our very best.

You said, “I’m so glad I drove all that way for nothing because it’s always the same d*mn five, and they s*ck! They should have beaten them way worse than they did!” so I can only presume your daughter didn’t play. (And by the way, there are six per team on the floor at a time.) As for your review of our team, who Farmington had just beat in a hard fought 25-23 competition, really?  Honestly, I don’t care which team you were speaking of, you were out of line. These are kids – 12 and 13 year old girls – who are doing the very best they can. It’s true, our last match-up against Farmington was not a pretty one for our girls, but they have worked hard and they are really starting to come together as a team as evidenced by this weekend’s competition. Your daughter’s team proves to be a worthy opponent and one we have not yet dominated but here’s what I noticed most when comparing the two: our girls were having fun. Our coach was having fun. Our fans were having fun. The girls on both sides of the net worked hard and should be commended on their efforts. It saddens me that now I will spend the next week or month or year shielding off the fear of hearing my 5 and 7 year old kids say, “They s*ck!” when the team we are watching is on the low end of the score, not because it’s true but because that’s what they heard from another person in the bleachers. It may seem innocent enough to you, but there are always small children around at ballgames, younger siblings who likely would much rather be enjoying a “play at home day” than to be enduring yet another Saturday full of ballgames. And children repeat what they hear, especially children with echolalia and autism.

According to http://www.autism.about.com, “Echolalia is literally the repetition of words and sounds a person has heard either recently or quite a while ago. Verbal children with autism are often echolalic, which means they do use words (and sometimes even use those words appropriately) – but their word choice is based on a memorized pattern.” Memorization for a child with autism, especially one with echolalia, can be accomplished with just one pass of hearing a word or phrase. That’s right, hearing it one time can cement it into the brain forever.

It may seem to be yet another hurdle to cross, but echolalia can actually be very helpful to the child who is working so hard to communicate. We have seen our son grow from using movie scripts to occupy his time and play happily, to using those scripts appropriately, in the right context even, to express himself and communicate with his teachers, peers, and family.

I understand that you likely didn’t know our son has autism. That is proof of hours upon hours upon hours of hard work by him, us, teachers, therapists, and aides who have become as much like family as anyone. And what a moment to celebrate!!

Next week, we’ll trek to your court for the regional tournament. I’m looking forward to cheering on my girl’s team, win or lose, because I know they will give their very best effort. I know they’ve had fun and I’m so thankful to their coaches for making it fun while they work so hard. Before our girls take the floor, they will huddle up, count it out, and let everyone there know what they’re all about: 1-2-3 FAMILY – another reason I’m so thankful for the coaches with whom my girl has spent the last few months.

If you can’t join us in enjoying the games of the day, appreciating the efforts of the coaches and players of all the teams, could you please do me a favor and chose another area to sit? I love to hear my littles clap and cheer and get our fan base going with their renditions of cheers they learned at their brother’s basketball games. I’d rather not add “same d*mn five” and “they s*ck” to their repertoire. Thanks ever so much and please tell your daughter and her teammates the Tornado fans wish them well.

Sincerely,

A Proud Tornado Mom

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4 Comments

  1. Terrye Lucas says:

    I love my hometown Tornados and can cheer them on from a distance due tio social media. My grandkids play here in CA and there is nothing worse than this type of parent. My daughter and I yell and clap if the other team makes a basket or a great play. The kids were in a league where the officials announced this was a kids game and it was about team building and building self confidence. Thank you for your well-written letter!

  2. Brian Smart says:

    I enjoyed this article very much. My Zachary sometimes repeats things he shouldn’t have heard. Sometimes days later!

  3. Farmington resident says:

    As a resident of Farmington, I am sorry that this happened. As a parent of two former Farmington Farmer students, I am sorry that this happened.

    Your letter was beautifully written and very educational. I hope the person that said those words has the opportunity to read your article and think about how damaging her words can be and makes sure this never happens again.

    Please know that what you heard has upset our town and school administration, as it reflects directly on our town and school system. I hope your next encounter with our school is a much better experience.

    From one parent to another, I am sorry this happened. Please give your children a big hug from the rest of our town. 🙂

    • Dear Farmington Resident,

      Thank you for your kind words. I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from surrounding communities, including your own. It is unfortunate that things like this happen, but they do. Not just in our communities, sadly, but in many gyms across our great nation.

      We personally know several fine folks from Farmington. Please know that I feel no ill will against your community, I just want a chance for our kids to play, and for us to watch without the negative comments of a disgruntled parent.

      It’s true, Farmington has a very passionate fan base. That’s part of what makes taking on your teams so much fun. There is great excitement in the air. We are looking forward to that excitement in today’s match-ups!

      Thank you again for your kindness.

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