Written by Catherine Holecko, family fitness expert at About.com.
I’m seven hours into an eight-hour bus ride that started at 4 a.m. I’m wedged into a seat that has half the legroom of coach class on a discount airline. My overstuffed purse is on my lap, and the bag containing breakfast, lunch and snacks for myself and my kid is squeezed into the few inches between my feet and my knees, because the overhead compartment is about six inches high. Adam Sandler is bellowing from the bus’s DVD players while 26 tween girls giggle and shriek in the seats behind me. Tomorrow I’ll be confined to an ice rink for the entire day and some of the night. And let’s not forget how much this weekend of skating team travel is costing—all for three minutes of actual competition time. If you’re questioning my sanity right now, I understand. At times like these, I question it too! Being a member of a travel team means a lot of sacrifices, for athletes and their families. Even setting aside the costs, which are significant, there’s the time commitment. Skating practices eat up a good portion of our Saturdays and a few evenings a week. We schedule our holiday plans around team obligations. Trips like this one usually require my daughter to miss a day of school, while I take time off from work and have to skip some of my younger child’s events and activities. Pulling off these trips requires a huge amount of volunteer effort from parents—they’re the ones who put in hours of advance planning, making intricate schedules and figuring out how to house, feed and transport more than 100 skaters, coaches and parent chaperones over the course of one long (really long) weekend. So I get how unreasonable this all sounds, and yes, I do sometimes ponder why we do it. But then I sit in the stands with the other parents who have become good friends (how could they not, after all this togetherness?) and watch my daughter skate with her team. I watch the three other teams her coach oversees. When they succeed—when they skate a clean program, with straight lines, big smiles and no one falling on the ice—I can’t help but tear up. When they falter, I tear up too, because I know how hard they’ve worked and how badly they want to do well. When they medal, I burst with pride. When they don’t, my heart breaks for them. And I can’t help it: I look forward to the next trip so I can watch them all over again. Catherine Holecko is the family fitness expert at About.com. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, son and husband.