The Mamma Bear Comes out of Hibernation: The Feral Drive to Protect Our Young

Photo by Lara Wilson
Photo by Lara Wilson

Perhaps the scene could have played out differently. In the light of infinite possibilities, of course it could have, but it didn’t. It appeared, if you will, almost as thought it were pre-scripted. The right characters were absent. The others, who needed to be there, present. I, unknowingly, had agreed to the role of the lead character, whether it be hero or villain, is a subjective matter.

The setting was a large metal building, devoid of natural air and light, aside from the wafts that make it through the heavy swinging doors when the players and their families enter and exit. Even though it was school vacation week, the place was packed with the energies of competitions.

My daughter was one of the competitors that day, and she stood nervously with 4 of her teammates, wondering if the others would show. Their parents, standing nearby, wondering the same. There was talk of a scrimmage and sharing players, the girls were, after all, playing against their classmates – girls from their school with whom they have played the same sport together, on the same team, in other seasons. But, this was just one half of the scene, and I was not privy to the conversations going on amongst the opposing team before the game.

By the time the whistle blew, my daughter’s team was still short a player, which meant they had to play at a handicap the entire game, requiring them to cover, together, more of the field, and their were no subs to give the girls a break. Although the other team may not have been aware of it, some of the girls were also recovering from illnesses. One from a stomach bug, my daughter, from a cold, a third was in the midst of a respiratory infection nestled inside her chest. At least 3 out of our 5 girls were not at their peak, and I, and other parents were wondering how they would hold up playing soccer for an hour with only one, brief, rest at half-time.

The other team, having known ahead of time that they would be short players, had pulled girls up from younger teams. They had 7. Enough for a full team, plus one to sub in. Seeing this from the side-lines, I thought for sure they would offer my daughter’s team their extra player, or, perhaps play a more relaxed game, a scrimmage, for fun and not points. Maybe 4 V 4. I heard other parents wondering the same. We were, after all, from the same town, our daughters friends and teammates from other seasons.

But, that’s not how the scene played out. We scored the first goal. Our girls were fresh and energized. By half-time the score was 6 points in the other team’s favor, and our substitute coach (our coach having succumbed to the stomach bug his daughter was getting over) was desperately trying to give the girls breaks by rotating them in goal. It was obvious to all observing, that the deficit of players on our team was causing exhaustion and frustration for our girls, who were now moving in slow-motion.

My own daughter, frequently admired for her tenacity and toughness, took a ball to the head and shook it off. Then, at about 10 minutes left of the game, I looked after and saw her limping. Her face was crumpled. Was she crying? That was the moment I entered the stage. The moment the mamma bear inside came out of hibernation. I had simply had enough. My daughter, my girl who was tough as nails, was hurt and no one else seemed to notice. The game kept playing around her.

I entered that scene in a blaze of heat, telling the spectators on my way to my daughter, what I thought of the game being played. Mothers agreed, including those on the other team. Including those who were married to the coaches on the other side. That was, though, before I yelled at their husbands. This bear was not happy. Her cub was hurt.

From the other side of the plexi-glass, I yelled to my daughter, interrupting the play of the game. “Get off the field. Get off the field.” With tears streaming, she limped, unassisted, off the field, while I ran around the perimeter to meet her.

To reach her, I had to pass the coaches from the other team, that was the shortest way to her. I hadn’t considered the barrier I had to cross. It didn’t matter. Or, it did. It seems it was meant to be. Here I was before 2 men, fathers of my daughter’s friends, whom I had nothing against before this game (have nothing against even now, just disappointment), raging my thoughts about their lack of ethics in the game. I won’t share their words, they are not, really, mine to share.

I had to pass into the field, briefly, to reach my daughter on the other side of the barrier. The game played on, my daughter’s side now playing at a 2 player deficiency. I felt like I was in a dream, or a nightmare. Was this for real? Was this really happening in the town I lived in, with people I knew and were friendly with?  Was this what I should be expecting from a children’s sporting event meant for fun? There was no fun being had well before the second half was being played, but the game had continued until the end. I had heard whispers from parents behind me that the points earned were counted toward the final standings. Was this the reason why we were not offered that olive-branch of good sportsmanship. Really!?

My daughter, when I reached her, was sobbing. She was hurt and embarrassed, as I would have been at her age, for her mother’s display. Only, my mother had never played the role of mamma bear. There was that part of me that was not remorseful. It is there still. I was pleased with my strength. Pleased that I had taken the role of fierce defender in a crowd of whispering protestors. I was unsupported, yet I stood my ground. That is not something I have always had the courage to do.

Would I do it all over again. Absolutely. Do I have regrets. Not really. That’s how the scene played out.  I think there was something to be learned by all. Sometimes waves are needed to get the boat to the shore. I’m an idealist. I have a low tolerance for perceived injustice. I believe that true victory is played through the heart, and sometimes the win is worth giving up.

Knowing how the scene would play out, of course I would do it differently. I would have asked, calmly, our fill-in coach and the coaches on the other team to explore other options. A scrimmage instead of a game for points. To share members from the teams. To play for fun and not for the win.

2 thoughts on “The Mamma Bear Comes out of Hibernation: The Feral Drive to Protect Our Young

    1. I thought you would agree, you’ve got that fire inside too 🙂 Thank you, Ali! As I said, I wouldn’t necessary do it differently. It was a learning experience for my daughter too, and hopefully others.


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