What does carne asada have to do with team building?

Yesterday I hosted the last team dinner I’ll ever get to host. My son’s water polo team gathered at our home prior to a tournament they’re playing this weekend.

Two other moms helped me, and we served the boys mounds of carne asada, hot tortillas, enchiladas, Spanish rice and salad. As if that weren’t enough food, we also offered chocolate milk (great after a workout, you know), fruit, homemade cookies and brownies.



For years I’ve hosted end-of-season parties, supervised team sleepovers and served dinner to players and families after Little League games. But last night was the end. The end of orchestrating a large dinner to be ready precisely on time, of serving it efficiently, making it look easy. The end of sharing a gift with my children’s teams  —  not by playing or coaching their sports, but by doing something I’m good at: food and hospitality.

I’ll still find people to cook for, still find ways to build community over shared meals. It just won’t involve my kids as much. And since none of them is playing varsity sports in college, it definitely won’t involve their teams.

Maybe that’s why this final team dinner seemed so significant. Sports have been important to my children, but not because they dreamed of playing professionally, or even playing in college. They took their sports commitments seriously, valuing not only personal improvement, but also their teams’ collective achievement. They learned “life lessons” about things like persistence, fairness and sportsmanship that will stay with them far beyond the court, the field, or the pool.


Menlo School boys water polo. Photo by Cynthia Yock.

Photo by Cynthia Yock


I’m grateful for the role sports have played in my children’s lives, grateful for remarkable individuals who’ve coached them over the years. Needless to say, I’m less grateful for the handful of negative coaches who made my kids’ lives difficult or soured them on a particular sport or season. But even then, playing for such coaches helped my kids develop the ability to discern when they were wrong, vs. when their coach was being unreasonable. Without a doubt, this is a skill they’ll use in “real life.”

Cooking for my children’s teams, or organizing schedules and communications for them, was a way I could contribute to activities they cared about. My son’s a senior, playing in his final water polo season, so I’m nearly finished with these contributions to my kids’ sports. Yes, I most likely will contribute elsewhere in the future. But all the same, an emptiness lingers.  

Yesterday was a busy day, full of logistics. All of which focused on the goal of serving dinner to twenty young men at 5:30 pm. Possibly 5:15 pm., if practice ended early.

Briskly, steadily, I worked down my to-do list. Emotionally, however, I dragged myself along.

I’ve told myself, I ought to feel glad: I can give away the extra pyrex I’ve stored in my garage, and I may never have to buy so many pounds of beef in a single shopping trip again! And yet — another chapter just ended, another door closed softly behind me.

Thank goodness there are more water polo matches left in the season. If you need me this weekend, I’ll be at the pool!






  1. Those good-looking guys look as if they can really pack away your authentic and tasty Cuisine Mexicana. I love the photo. Transitions, it seems, must always be bittersweet, no?

  2. Brenda Avery says

    So very, very true. I don’t look forward to my last ones, but I feel it fast approaching. Thank you for putting it into words so nicely.
    Happy Empty Nest or better known as Free Birds,

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.