Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Not-So-Sporting Life.

I was hovering around the snack table at a birthday party recently and started talking to a woman whose daughter was the same age as Kira. We both thought we had seen each other before and tried to figure out where our paths might have crossed. She mentioned some activities we possibly had in common: Soccer league? Summer softball? Basketball camp? I told her it was highly unlikely she had seen anyone in our family at these events, since it would have required us to be outside, chasing a ball and breaking a sweat. I threw out some suggestions of my own: Fighting over a muffin at Starbucks? Buying toilet paper at the grocery store after midnight? She left to talk to someone else after that, which was fine since she was starting to hog all the dip.

As you can tell we're not a team-sports kind of family. Rigel is an avid tennis player and plays once a week, but he never played on any teams when he was young. I played basketball when I was around 11, but it was pure torture, and my most vivid memory is of falling off the bench during a game. I'd like to say it was because of a heated girl-fight over a bad foul, but in fact it happened when I leaned over to see how many minutes until lunch and fell on my face when my feet got tangled in each other. The coach never let me play much after that, which wouldn't have been so bad if he didn't insist that I sit on the floor wearing a helmet.

I often feel pressured to involve our kids in sports but I'm not knocking it altogether. I think the physical exercise it provides and the camaraderie is important, and hey - those teeny cleats are so dang cute! It's just that having two daughters who have absolutely no interest in joining a team, who would rather design the soccer uniforms than wear them, makes us definite outsiders. Sometimes when I tell other parents our Saturday plans involve neither games, tailgate parties or tournaments they eye me suspiciously, like I had just told them we'd be holed up in our house all weekend cooking up big vats of meth instead.

I admit that Rigel and I aren't exactly inspiring our kids to become team players, but let me just say that they do get their share of exercise - at least twice a year we insist that they turn off their Nintendos, put down their liter-bottles of Coke and go outside. But breaking free of our DNA is hard, and they gravitate towards activities where it's not necessary for them to co-exist peacefully with twelve other players or where they don't have to learn to lose gracefully. They play badminton, or handball or lately they've been rollerskating - not rollerblading, but the four-wheel kind, which is what all the young kids are doing. Or at least they used to - FIFTY YEARS AGO.

And it gets better! We just bought a croquet set - can we possibly get any nerdier? We're having fun playing it, but unfortunately I can't get enough people together to form a league and there don't seem to be any listings for croquet tournaments on ESPN. Once they get tired of this, I'll be signing the girls up for shuffleboard and then dropping them off at the senior center for big-stakes bingo.

When Kira was six and most of her friends were already on their fourth year of team sports, I thought it was time to join the ranks and sign her up. I was getting tired of going to other peoples homes and seeing those trophies for "Best Goalie In Diapers" and hearing about the baseball scholarships they'd already secured for their fancy preschools. I told her she could choose any sport she wanted and I'd find a team for her to join. She thought about it for a few minutes and after some careful consideration told me, "Jumprope."

I have to admit I loved that answer, and it makes me think about how happy my girls would be if they were allowed to continue to keep playing as children. What about a Freeze-Tag Tournament, or a World Series of Hopscotch? I know that's just the sports nerd in me and they may not always prefer a birdie over a bat. But in the meantime I'll be outside, kicking the hackeysack around with them and setting up their tetherball.

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29 comments:

  1. Smiling...

    My third child (a girl) was signed up for soccer when she was 4. Her brother and sister did soccer and she insisted SHE wanted to too!

    She was the only one on the team that wanted her hair up in a ponytail with CURLS before the game so she would look 'cute' and then in the MIDDLE OF THE GAME ran off the field, collapsed dramatically onto my lap and announced that she was "hot and tired" and was going to sit on my lap for awhile and just 'watch'....

    ... while the referee' stood on the field and waited patiently, and the parents around me chuckled.

    (I obviously told her she couldn't do that during a game and had to run back in there and finish... which she did, but we didn't bother signing her up for soccer after that. LOL)

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  2. We are a family torn by athletics. Sarge was a huge sports guy growing up. He did it all, basketball, baseball, soccer, golf. And I guess he was pretty good, though now that he is older, he only regularly plays golf. My motto on the other hand is:
    "No sports that involve a ball, or running."
    Piko de Gallo falls somewhere in between. Just like aka-meritt's girl, she would probably be the only girl on the field with lipgloss and prefect hair. And I know the reason she's hooked on becomming a professional golfer is because I told her that when she's really good, she'll get free clothes and shoes. And the companies will design them especially for her.
    I'm hoping for some product samples myself. Maybe L'Occitane will sponser her.

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  3. Antique Mommy4/26/2007 5:12 AM

    I love this post. I don't really play well with others so I never did well at team sports. Unfortunately, I'm afraid it's genetic. The other day I asked Sean if he would like to sign up to play soccer and he said, "No thank you. I don't really like people. I only like you."

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  4. You need to move in next door. My kids consider jumping on the trampoline and playing marco-polo in the pool the height of sporting activities.

    Last time Rory was on a basketball team she wore a skort, brightly colored tights and hi-tops. She interrupted a team pow-wow by suggesting that they all tie their little over jerseys at the waist to make them fit better.

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  5. Love this post. My daughter is seven, and she has yet to participate in a team sport. Glad to know we're not the only weird ones.

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  6. we've yet to encounter the whole sports thing...but i hope when we do...our kids will be interested. For me however, it's not that I don't want to play sports, i do i do,...but instead I don't want them to take over their life and to overwhelm them with TOOOO MANY activities.

    - Jon
    - Daddy Detective
    - www.daddydetective.com

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  7. OK we are so you. Roy just set up the badminton set. My kids just want to play sports for fun, so that keeps us from team sports.
    I'm sending this post to Roy, he won't believe that their truly are others like us.

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  8. I really, really like this post and have another backyard game suggestion for you. Like croquet, you walk short distances, but unlike croquet you can hang onto your grappa or vino without having to share your hands with a mallet. Bocci ball. Fantastico!

    Loved Kira's jumprope answer, as well. When our son Colin was the same age, he was having his passport picture taken and the photographer, trying to relax him and get a less weird smile, asked him where he went to school and his favorite subject. Colin thought long and hard and sincerely said, "Needlework." (we lived in England). It wasn't too much longer when his dad had him playing soccer, cricket and asking a coach if his boy was old enough for rugby.

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  9. Oh, this post/comments make me feel so much better! I have 3 kids under nine and except for a basketball clinic and a season of ballet, we're not involved in sports. If/when they want to, fine, but for now I'm letting them just be. I'm always hearing mothers tell of the Friday to Sunday packed weekend they have, soccer this, drama that, while I'm thinking, "Hmm, Saturday morning we piled on my bed and ate doughnuts." From 8 to 18 my whole life was tennis and I hated it. No one will even broach the topic with me lest they incur my wrath. So thanks for an awesome post and for reinforcing that there is life, a fabulous life, beyond team sports. Mmmwah!

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  10. I know that look! The look of suspicion when I reveal that my every waking moment is not spent at a practice or game. When scheduling a dinner date is just not that hard because we are never out of town for tournaments. They're just jealous that they don't have the willpower to just say no to a life ruled by sports events.

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  11. I was never involved in sports when I was a kid so it's not something I really think of for mine, you know? We signed J up for soccer last summer and we probably will again this year, but it's less her wanting to play and more feeding the Italian Stallion and the whole MUST REPRESENT ITALY thing lurking deep within my husband.

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  12. I LOVE this. I was a sports nerd, too growing up. Now I'm afraid my daughter takes after me - can't run or throw a ball to save her life. So no teams in her future, only skateboarding.

    But I have my weekends free!!

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  13. We tried our first attempt at a t-ball clinic for 4 & 5 yr olds last fall...our son would sit out in the field with his glove off & his finger up his nose. He obviously has the skillz of his dad & I. None (yet).

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  14. I never played team sports.. only tennis. My husband's genes are obviously stronger.. My girls tried netball (which I know you don't have over there but it's a team sport mainly played by women - popular in Australia and other Commonwealth countries) only because it was held at the one venue and I didn't have to drive them all over the countryside every Saturday like they did with soccer. Unfortunately they loved it, and are good at it, and have ended up playing at (regional level)rep level, and me, the non-netball-playing/never-played-team-sports mother has been sucked into the committee, and driving them around to training and carnivals. What can you do when they've tried a team sport and love it?

    My middle daughter in particular has been a natural at running and swimming and dancing even, but absolutely hates the limelight that individual success brings, yet she loves sharing the limelight that team success brings. *shrugs*

    So please don't tar us all with the same brush. Not all parents of kids who play team sports are obsessive about it. Some of us are just supporting their kids doing something they enjoy. (At the same time we also do other non-team active stuff with them. Like camping, and bushwalking, and riding bikes - tandems and a triplet actually! - on long rides. But believe me, our kids also know how to sloth!!

    [Sorry this is long.. but I get a bit peturbed about being categorized!]

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  15. Thanks. Now I don't feel so alone. What's worse, I have boys who have no interest in team sports. They do love their bikes, though, and their skateboards.

    But you're right - there's alot of pressure to put them on the baseball team. They refuse, though, so I won't force them.

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  16. The thing I seem to remember about team sports as a kid is I asked to do the activities (swimming, volleyball, and track). My 7 yr. old daughter has asked for specific things (dance, tennis and now basketball and horseback riding). I figure if she's interested in it she's definitely going to enjoy it more than if I signed her up because she needs the extra ciricular crap for college appliciation.

    She was in soccer at two and a half which was hilarious. These little guys would kick the ball and then run in the opposite direction to the monkey bars- which had me howling with laughter- but some parents took it really seriously. They scare me,

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  17. Jump-rope! That's great.

    I wish more parents were like this (I am).

    Kids in organized sports are under so much pressure, it sure takes the fun out of being a kid.

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  18. I love hopscotch. Love it!
    And jumprope. Redlight greenlight, what time is it mr wolf.

    How about who can fly the highest in the swing?
    These all bring back great memories.

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  19. ummm.. TOTALLY OFF TOPIC here, but um.. how the heck do you have 5 because i said so dvd's to donate dammit?!?!?!! i looked at that whole list of prizes and those 5 dvd's are ALL i want! LOL.. i had been planning on buying a few when it came out as gifts for my mom and sister... and now you! you! have 5 to give away??!?!!! *dies*

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  20. You know... My son was too busy chatting up the girls on the other team to actually PLAY soccer last year. Sigh... So, yeah, I know what you mean. But if there's ever a "ride your bike with training wheels at less than 5 miles per hour for a half an hour" sort of game, I think grandma (uh, Seth) would be totally into it.

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  21. Word.

    I think alot of parents enroll their kids in sports in order to live vicariously through them. (I said ALOT, not ALL. Parents of kids who actually LIKE sports, please don't attack me.)

    I speak through experience - my parents pretty much forced me to play softball through my childhood - my dad was a semi-pro player. It totally turned me off to any kind of team sports and athletics as an adult.

    -annie

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  22. Kira's on the cutting edge. Jumping rope is hottt! (Have you seen the Disneyfied double-dutch movie Jump In?) Lately I've been watching in shock as my daughter and her friends jump rope and sing, "A is for Alice my husband's name is Albert we live in Arizona and we sell Apples B is for..."

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  23. I love to hear the birdie from a wild game of badmitton wizz past my ear. The plastic ping gets my blood going.

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  24. Just for the record, my team would totally whip your team's ass at Freeze Tag.

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  25. I hate team sports or any competetive sports because I am a SORE LOSER. Seriously. I like to swim because I can do it alone and I'm not racing anyone. I finish and I tell myself, "Damn! You're GOOD." Then I give myself a first place ribbon and go home.

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  26. I didn't play many team sports. Well, volleyball and softball, but I only did that in the summer.

    I think it's a good experience though. Especially for kids!

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  27. I signed my 3.5 y/o to basketball with through out town and he sat on my lap for 45 minutes and played for 15. Needless to say, that was the last time. He's doing soccer and seems to enjoy it but who knows...he'd rather be playing tag with his siblings any day.

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  28. If your girls had a freeze tag tourney, it'd be hard to keep my boys (and girl) away.

    Team sports are too much work these days (only 33 days to go until baseball is over) and those competitive parents are killing me.

    Carrie

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  29. I'm all for team jumprope competitions. Sign me up.

    I'll trip, of course. But it would be fun for the first 45 seconds.

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