A few minutes before we arrived at any contest of sport, Courtney and Cydney knew what to expect. With my Jeep’s stereo on full blast, they were conditioned to charge up as soon as the guitar riff looped, and mumble “Don’t you open up the window,” well-aware all four were about to be rolled down. As soon as the beat dropped, it was time to focus on the game ahead.
Travis Scott’s 2015 hit single was the perfect “Antidote” for my brood to get hyped up to compete. Outside of the first four bars, they never sang a word until “Oooooooh ooooh oooh ahhhhhh anything can happen at the night show.” The mindset of this part of the song was what I prepared them for. With supreme confidence, support, and their abilities, anything could happen because they could make it happen. I only played the edited version; but each time I watched them morph from little kids into athletes, who in their mind, felt their games were what they’d seen professional athletes do on television, I would mimic La Flame’s cropped-out words “Fuckin’ right, ho!” to myself.
“Antidote” wasn’t played for personal enjoyment. We opened up the windows for a reason: it was to send a message to the children-and their parents-who was about to get out the car. My boy was there to throw nine strikeouts; or get buckets until the opposition were infuriated their double teams didn’t work and fouled him. The little girl in my backseat was Lucky Lefty, the first grade forward whose nine and ten-year-old teammates assumed was in third grade until the last day of play. We would leave the game the same way we pulled up.
My methods to coach Cydney and Courtney varied. Cydney needed confidence. I made practice fun to keep her engaged. If not, she got distracted and bored; otherwise every rehearsal period would last for five minutes before she wanted to talk and/or do something else. Before soccer, every Saturday morning began with a minute contention in the form of “Daddy, I don’t want to play today.”
Since the beginning, Cydney was almost always the youngest and smallest on her soccer teams. In 2013, at three years old, she never scored a goal and trailed behind the other little girls who were one summer away from first grade. Cyd trotted along and sulked the whole season. After each game, I would tell her it may not feel to great in the moment; but when she plays with girls her age, she will see she was well-prepared to great.
The next year, I placed her in programs with children her age and it was too easy. Her instructors placed her in one-on-four scrimmages (she was the “one), and she won with little effort. From then on, Cydney played up, between one and three years her senior. She was never the fastest on the field or scored the most goals. However, with the exception when she was six had two fourth graders on her team, it was obvious to all onlookers who was the most skilled girl on the field. Because of this, she still tends to lollygag and not give her best in games until she scores a goal. Once Cydney puts the ball into the net, she taps in and turns it all the way up.
Courtney always had the confidence; therefore, he needed to be pushed in a different manner. He needed to get beat up on. When he was in third grade, he told me a story in which he was challenged by a classmate to a game of one-on-one in basketball. After he beat the boy, he told everyone who watched “I’m the best basketball player in this school!” I loved his level of confidence. However, at his age, to feel this way leads to comfort and contentment.
Without proper citation, I quoted DMX and told the eight-year-old “Everybody is the man in their own hood. This is just one school in your district. You have no idea who is out there and how much they practice.” From this moment on, I made it my business to give him the business.
My nephew had moments of self-doubt. These are the times in which I peeled back my façade to inform him of his greatness. In seventh grade, he did not feel great about his performance on his middle school basketball team. After one game, I asked him “Why do you think you are in the A group?” He gave a reply which displayed a lack of certainty in his abilities; I felt it was unsatisfactory.
“You’re in the A group because you belong out there. Are there any other seventh graders in the A-group?! No. They know you’re the man and will carry the team next year.” His demeanor began to shift; partially out of disbelief I thought so highly of him and he knew I meant it.
While the methods may be different, the destination was always the same: unshakable self-belief. As a parent, I believe the instillation of confidence is one of my most important jobs. The world can and will do whatever it can to tear it down. When it does, the answer lies within themself. Can’t nobody tell them who or what they are better than they can. Why? Because no one else knows better than they do. The two little kids in the back of the car had no idea “Don’t you open up that window” was to tell the world they better get ready…Said window was opportunity.