SCOTT PRUDEN • EDITOR//PHOTO BY
I’m not here to start a fight, I promise. But I’ve been glad every day of my life as a parent that I’m not a sports dad.
You know him—posting on Facebook about devotedly schlepping his little athletes to pre-dawn swimming or ice hockey practices or enduring marathon soccer tournaments that take a good portion of a weekend. Then there’s the darker version, the guy who feels it’s his job to let coaches, referees and players know from the sidelines that he sees everything they do, and most of it is wrong.
Sports Dad No. 1 impresses me—even if I think “There but for the grace of God go I”—with the amount of time, energy and emotional support he’s willing to invest in something his kids love. Sports Dad No. 2 always unnerved me. I never understood how public, unchecked rage translated into being a supportive parent.
Fortunately for me, a lifelong theater guy, my family’s dominant performing gene won out with both of my kids. After brief flirtations with karate (every minute of which was beneficial to the amazing people they’ve become), both find themselves drawn more to the singing/dancing/acting side of extracurricular activities than those involving bats, balls, sticks or pools.
And I’m OK with that. I’ve told both on several occasions that I will drive them to as many rehearsals and watch as many performances as I need to as a thank you for not making me stand in a field watching soccer on a cold, dreary March Sunday. My kids, in return, have thanked me profusely for not being Sports Dad No. 2.
It brings me immense joy to see that they enjoy performing, because my own theater experiences have been nothing but positive. They started when I was invited to serve as emcee (sequined red vest and all) for elementary school chorus concerts. In high school, I worked at my dad’s side during the plays he directed for Newark’s Chapel Street Players and went on to perform in six shows through my sophomore, junior and senior years at Dickinson High School.
It was during those years that I learned not just about acting, singing and dancing, but also valuable lessons about creativity, friendship, tolerance and working with others in high-stress situations—lessons that translated well to the world of professional journalism. Spending time with community theater actors disabused me of the notion that adults—despite their “real” jobs and greater responsibilities—were anything other than kids trapped in bigger bodies. And if anyone ever told me theater robbed me of the physical benefits of sports, I knew after my junior year that I could tell them it was obvious they never repeatedly rehearsed the wedding scene bottle dance from “Fiddler on the Roof.” (Look it up. Yeah, I did that.)
With the explosion of musical theater fandom among young people (thank you, “Hamilton” and “Dear Evan Hanson”), it’s only natural that some would seek an outlet for their dramatic inclinations as a part of their summer activities. Fortunately, Delaware and its wide variety of theatrical opportunities translates into plenty of ways kids can enjoy a taste of life, in the spotlight through summer camps as described in this month’s story, The 2019 Guide to Theater Camps in Delaware.
I, for one, encourage any child to make a theater experience part of growing up. And parents, I encourage you to let them. Your kids will discover sides of themselves they didn’t know. And I predict you’ll simply love watching them perform, and likely relish the opportunity to engage with them in a setting where the only parental outbursts are shouts of “bravo!” amid a standing ovation.