Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Confessions of a Former Athlete

I was an athlete. I guess technically I still am since I play in a co-ed soccer league and love sports however my days of training for a sport are long gone. I grew up in a house with four older sisters and a mom and dad who encouraged (not pushed) us to try out for different sports. Some sisters played tennis, basketball and softball and we all played volleyball. I went to sports camps at Calvin College every summer because they were free (thanks Dad/Professor Pettinga) and it was close enough for me and my sisters to ride our bike there every morning.

The first team I played on was in 5th grade and it was a rec. softball team. We were called "The Monarchs" and our toughness matched our name that season. I played with all of my good friends from school and a couple of years later even made a pact with them that at our last game we would all wear our training bras. I realized quickly that was a miserable decision as I itched and squirmed the entire game. I played three sports in high school and two in college and loved nearly every athletic experience I've ever had.

Flash forward to the year 2012. I'm now a mom of three. I have three different kids who are talented in different ways. And I have a confession, I really don't care if they are the best one on the team. Did you just gasp? :) I'm as competitive as they come and sometimes get frustrated watching beginner sports but you know what, I really just want my kids to like team sports. I refuse to buy into the notion that my kids had to start sport training while still wearing diapers. I refuse to spend a ridiculous amount of money or time on one kid in one sport. I refuse to believe that they have to pick a sport right now and specialize in it to make a team in high school. Why would I limit them in athletics when I don't limit their potential in anything else? Why do we as parents walk around and say, "my kid isn't athletic." It's like saying, "my kid isn't a student or a musician or a good person." Stop. Your kid may not have even tried "their sport" yet. Your kid may still be growing, developing muscles and learning all the necessary skill sets for each sport. Athletics is such an outward way for others to measure your child. No one stands over your child as they take a math test and cheers, "Yes! You got that one right too!" But maybe they should ...

Spring forward to this spring. Our soon to be teenager decided to try softball again after taking several years off from it. She got dressed for practice and was so excited to go play. When she arrived she quickly realized she was the only one not carrying a bat bag with her own bat and helmet inside. And as she played she also realized that the talent gap had widened since she last played softball for the Y. Her team is composed of eleven girls but eight of them are on two teams and have a special coach. So there were three girls who met with their coach and kind of practiced with this "elite 8". As she drove home with her dad, there were tears shed. And as a former athlete but more importantly, as her mom, that breaks my heart. So we'll regroup and decide if we jumped into the major leagues before practicing first at the minors. And we'll remind her just how talented she is at volleyball, singing, making friends, getting good grades, playing piano, playing the violin, reading, following Jesus and being our daughter.
 (Behold my perm. I know. I stand amazed at it's bigness too.)


chelle said...

Thanks for this, Laurie!
You packed a lot of truth into one post.

The whole training from diapers mentality is debatable (not by me-- I think it's bunk) but that's the pressure on kids (and parents) today. It saddens me as a mom to know that your incredibly well rounded daughter feels lesser because she didn't spend her first 12 years eating, breathing, and sleeping softball.

Clearly, God makes us all with a varied skills, talents gifts. In my mind, finding that bend in our kids is part our job. Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes it surprises us, sometimes we have to wait and see what that bent may be.

Tough stuff, no doubt.
Great post!
Glad to hear from you again :)

also, your perm rules.

Laurie said...

Oh Chelle. You're awesome and a breath of fresh air. It must be because you live in Caledonia and have chickens. :)

How goes the running? Pink shoes or not, you'll rock it.

MiniMe Mom said...

Screaming at them that they need more practice works for us.

It really helps if you make them do suicides upon missing a key play.

I am completely kidding.

Kayden has surprised me by how much he loves basketball. He initiates all of it. Josh and I often talk about how hands off we want to be, so that he doesn't burn out at age seven.

Bryce is content to watch the grass grow and follow worms along a patch of dirt. If he does pick up a basketball (or any ball for that matter), it is only because he adores his older brother and would do anything asked of him by Kayden.

Like Chelle said, different talents and desires are what make them unique. Pushing either of them into something they don't enjoy would be a waste of time....and it burns me when value is only placed on someone because they are an athlete. Being smart will take you so much further in life (not that I would know- I wasn't either! lol)

Since Josh coaches middle school athletics, this topic is broached a lot around our house. I feel it a sad shift that a high school student cannot play more than one sport in this athletic climate.
Gone are the days of playing football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring. These kids need to decide when they are 9 what they want to do for the next eight years, and it just isn't right. I honestly do not think athletes are all that much more talented NOW than they were in "the good old days" when I was in high school--even though they spend a heck of a lot more time honing their skills.

Wow, you didn't realize I would hop up on my soapbox, huh?


All I can say is that I see it, too, and I am sorry your daughter was made to feel non-elite because she hasn't had laser focus on softball her whole life.

She is lucky to have you for a mom.

Laurie said...

Love you too Jamie and your mini-sermon. :)

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