As a coach’s wife, sister, mother, and friend, I’ve been in bleachers or stands the majority of my life.
And as much as my heart is out there rooting for my team, I can't help but look away from the field and appreciate some groups of fans in the stands over the years.
I have just recently found my favorite fan of all time, but to get there, I must sort out the rest.
Let's start with the coaches' wives: A dedicated fleet of women at every single game praying their husbands' preparations will give him one good night’s sleep this week. Married to the game, the team, the school, and the community, they are huddled together to avoid any negativity.
They are there in all weather and stages of their lives. The newlywed, young mom, mother of a player, and veteran coach’s wife are all equals as they run down to the sideline and gate for celebrations and disappointments. These are the fans that make the least noise for what they have at stake.
Then there are the dedicated and passionate fathers and grandpas, out there keeping stats, recording for highlight films, and occasionally yelling at the officials, coaches, or anyone else impacting their boy’s successes. These guys are interesting. They are intense. They are full of love, pride, and an unbelievable devotion to their athlete. They are fabulous examples of unbridled love and a true fan!
We can’t forget the moms! They're the ones with their kid’s last name and number on their hoodies. They show up half an hour early to get their usual seats and have all the gear! They tote stadium seats, perfect coats for all weather, cowbells, Pom Poms, and air horns. They usually already had a kid or two come through the program, and they are there in all their glory knowing these games go faster than we all think. These fans know how to make the most out of every game and serve as a reminder that every play counts and no season lasts forever.
Then we have the student section! Oh, the energy! You'll find crazy posters that no one understands except other classmates, the coordinated chants that make the sideline laugh (or at least get eye contact), and the beloved girlfriend of players embedded amongst them. She is all decked out in her boyfriend's game gear, hanging on the fence with the other girlfriends praying for a win so it’s a happy weekend.
They’re my reminder that the game creates once in a lifetime friendships and memories.
The alumni have their own gifts as fans too. Full of history, devotion, a little jealousy, but mostly camaraderie that only another former player would feel. They represent the brotherhood of it all, the reminder that the body may have to leave the field, but your heart never will.
That leaves my favorite fan, and I’ve only just found her.
I’ve seen this fan several times over the years, and I’ve come to admire her greatly.
She is the mother of the mother of the athlete on the field: the maternal grandmother. She has her gear and her giant bag of grandma supplies for the grandkids not on the field. She lives for the sport, almost as much as the athlete does. It fills her empty calendar with “can’t miss” dates and a good reason to get out of the house and find “her people.” She’s there early and has everything anyone needs for a game: from sunblock to blankets, extra mittens to lollipops.
She sits alone until her face lights up as her daughter walks over with her family and scrambles to make her life easier! She spreads the blanket on the bleachers and has money for concessions because mom may say “no” but Grandma says “yes!”
She’s not just there to entertain the little ones either! She knows all about the game! She’s most likely been watching it longer than her grandchild has been alive! She watches every play with laser eyes and an adoration you can only get from a woman who raised the woman who raised the player.
You won’t hear her shouting out plays or yelling at officials, and it’s not because she’s soft—she’s far from gentle—just because she’s a true fan. She’s not there to make a lot of nonsense noise, or be heard. She’s here for the game.
Her daughter’s child is out there and that is her everything right now.
I look for her now. I’ll glance at the stands and see if she’s there. She’s forever my reminder that supporting the ones we love is the only reason any of us should be there. I try to take her enthusiasm, authenticity, and gratitude and tuck it into my soul, remember there is something about love that gets amplified by sports.
And sometimes the greatest fans are the ones that show up alone, say the least, and love the most.