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Teen activities keep parents active as well
VITAL TRIFLE, BY LAURI GROSS
Teen activities keep parents active as well
My 16-year-old daughter, Kate, participates in a long list of extracurricular activities. Two of her most time-consuming are the dance team and the softball team.
She is unusual in choosing these two teams, and it is not easy juggling their demanding schedules. Both teams are active all year. Kate says, when she needs a break from standing up straight, smiling and being prim and proper on the dance team, she likes that softball offers the opportunity to go and hit things. At dance competitions and softball tournaments, the similarities and differences between the two become especially obvious.
Softball tournaments and dance competitions both offer opportunities to buy food. Also, both events draw large crowds of dedicated parents. Besides the stamina required to train and compete in both dance and softball, the competitions and tournaments require stamina on the parents' part as well. In both cases, spectators and competitors come early and stay for a long day.
On dance teams and softball teams, it is not unusual to see athletes competing with knee braces, wrapped wrists or some other devices for nursing injuries, most likely sustained while pursuing the pastime itself. Both softball and dance require plenty of hard work to achieve any kind of success, and both also require plenty of bags of stuff.
Both events are showcases not just for talented athletics but also for camaraderie. The teammates spend so much time together that they tend to act like siblings with plenty of hugging, laughing and whispering, mixed in smacking, insulting and jeering.
Also at dance competitions and softball tournaments, there is always plenty of waiting-around time between rounds of action.
And now for some differences:
First, softball tournaments are played outdoors, in parks with many ball fields in close proximity, while dance competitions are held in school gyms or in large convention-type halls with plenty of seating. This means spectators and competitors at softball tournaments can be cold, hot, wet, dusty or muddy, depending on the weather and field conditions, whereas dance competitors and spectators are indoors, shielded from all that.
One of the main differences between the competitors is that dancers stay very clean, and softball players, not so much. In fact, dancers are positively shiny, sparkly clean, from their perfectly coiffed hair to the sparkly makeup to shiny, shimmery, glistening outfits. On the other hand, dirt is the main fashion accessory for softball players. Dirt on their clothes. Dirt on their gear. Dirt on their faces, hands, knees, legs, etc. And plenty of dirt in your car.
Even though both dancers and softball players carry an abundance of bags, what's in those bags is quite different. Softball players' bags contain gear: bats, mitts, batting gloves, tape, sunglasses, visors, batting helmet, cleats and a water bottle. Dancers' bags contain piles of makeup, every imaginable hair accessory and tool and lots of clothing changes.
Clothing is a source of many differences between softball players and dancers. Softball players wear uniforms. Dancers wear costumes, or outfits. Softball players wear matching jerseys, shorts or pants and socks. Dancers match on every single square inch of their bodies, not just their actual dance outfit. Their socks match. Their shoes match. Their nylons, under layers, straps, buttons, headbands, earrings, eyeliner and hairdos match. The exception is the category of hip-hop dancing, which allows for some variation among dancers on the same team.
Also, during a softball tournament, a player's change of clothes consists of taking a sweatshirt off or putting a sweatshirt on. During a dance competition, dancers change clothes for each performance, and there are plenty! Dancers even change their hairdos for each dance. Usually, these are complicated affairs requiring bobby pins, hair spray, wraps, elastics, combs, brushes, straighteners and, often, hairpieces and/or wigs.
Further distinguishing the appearance of a dancer from a softball player is the smile. Dancers -- again, with the exception of hip-hop dancers -- wear nonstop glorious, Broadway, toothy grins, while softball players are generally gritting their teeth trying to look tough.
You might think things get loud at softball games, but you haven't heard loud until you've been to a dance competition. Softball fans -- and players, coaches and umpires -- do yell, but it is a quiet zone in a library compared to dance competitions. Music blares before, during and after each dance at record-breaking and ear-splitting decibel levels. Announcers shout into their microphones, and fans compete for their own awards by being the loudest. Seriously.
The criteria for success are also very different from softball to dance.
In a softball tournament, there are rules and umpires, plain and simple. Usually, at least eight or 10 teams compete in a traditional sports bracket format, with teams being eliminated until there are two left facing each other in the championship round. You pay attention to the score. You know who wins.
At dance competitions, teams perform dances in various categories before a group of judges. At the end of each round, the emcee announces the points each team has won and awards trophies, medals, ribbons, etc. Although there are guidelines as to what is allowed and preferred in each dance, one can't help but think the judging is more personal than an umpire's call.
At the end of a softball tournament, one team is the winner. At the end of a dance competition, there are many winners.
And at the end of both, I have a lot of laundry to do.
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