GIVING BOYS PERMISSION TO CRY IN SPORTS

The buzzer signaled the end of the game and most of the Cleveland Cavaliers drowned out the sounds of stunned fans with tears. Silhouettes of grown men bent in the ugly cry, the one that makes your shoulders bounce up and down, dotted the Warriors home arena. Cameras caught winning coach Tyronn Lue with his head buried in a team towel for what felt like 20 minutes. Millions were with him, but he was all alone in the moment. His moment. Coaches and players who had poured out every ounce of competitive energy abandoned self-awareness about being seen crying on national television. And that’s a good thing.

“After the game, it was just — I never cry,” he said at the podium. “I’ve always been tough and never cried.” Cleveland Cavaliers Coach, Tyronn Lue

Our oldest began playing baseball when he was five years old. From that early age he was a boy who cried on the field. After a failed at bat, a missed catch and just a loss. He cried. Some of his teammates cried. So much that during his seven year old season his coached screamed from the dugout, “I’m tired of all of this crying.” That was his last season playing baseball.

Heard from the sidelines of many a youth sporting event is a chorus of moms, dads and coaches telling young boys to “suck it up”, “don’t cry” or any combination of words to prevent the display of those plump wells of wet disappointment. I maintain we’re not raising boys in our family. We’re raising men since they will be grown men way longer than they are little boys.

Most researchers and therapists agree that inhibiting sad, hurt, or fearful feelings is a health encumbrance for young men. The display of a lack of emotional control happens early and often for some kids. This is important because male suicide rates reportedly start to rise by age 16.  In addition to combating depression being able to express anger in healthier, more productive ways has a direct connection to a support system accepting of crying.

My three-year-old has a comfort object. My mommy friends call it a lovie, but to him it’s Brown Blanket. Given to him at birth, the 30×40 once super soft fleece enrobes him when he’s upset and crying. It’s a physical sense of security needed for a few minutes until he feels sure of himself again. As this child gets more independent and goes off into the world, he won’t be able to bring Brown Blanket with him. Instead, our family will need to cover him and his big brother with the ability to accept and experience the full breath of their feelings.

When it comes to children especially young boys showing emotion on or off the field, healthy displays of emotion create men with a stronger sense of self. Crying is a perfectly normal human response to sadness. It’s also incredibly cathartic when we win. If you’re still not convinced, ask LeBron James about how much he cares about the world seeing him cry today.

 

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