There may have been a better title for this, but I’m not going to spend a crap-ton of time mulling that over. I’m not a headline writer nor do I have one at my disposal.
Do I think my kids hate sports? Hate is such a strong word, but I’m sure they do not appreciate them like I do. In fact, I’m not sure within the past 30 or so years of two wives, two different families and my own family anyone likes sports as much as I do. I spent a considerable amount of time watching football by myself at various Thanksgivings. Of course, my first marriage was into a family of scholars and scientists and for Thanksgiving they brought out flow charts and graphs about their latest work (I’m not kidding). Brilliant people, but criminy it’s Thanksgiving. As such, the TV became my friend… but not the Lions, never the Lions.
Okay, the only person who ever had the same zeal for sports that I have was my father. That’s where I got it from. Whatever team I wanted to win; he’d want the other. That was the nature of our relationship. He was certainly athletic, one of those multi-sport high school stars who ran roughshod over his opponents. He was good. Country good as he grew up on a farm, but not Jerry Sloan country good. That’s a far higher level.
Back to my kids. They were treated to a ton of games as they grew up. I was in advertising, and one of my clients for five years was WSCR The Score. So yeah, we went to a lot of games. While my fandom was certainly sated, I think I completely overwhelmed them.
But they played sports. Not as much as I did. I had something to prove – that I could beat my dad in basketball. Even though baseball was my favorite sport, it’s too hard to beat another individual at it and frankly he was a better hitter than I. No, I picked basketball. It took a lot of effort, and finally when I was 14 or so I beat him at HORSE. I know it hurt him as he was not the best at sportsmanship. Pretty sure he accused me of cheating. But that was normal. Accusations of cheating caused us to stop playing cards and board games when I was growing up. I was 9 when we stopped.
My kids played sports because they wanted to, and when it was time to hang it up, they made the decision. All I ever asked of them was to finish the season. No quitting. My son stopped playing simply because he never had the neanderthal gene it takes to completely destroy someone on the field without feeling bad about it. At one point when he was out of sports and was 15 or so, he asked me how I knew he was not going to be a sports kid and was I disappointed. No, I wasn’t. I knew when he was 5 when he was playing soccer and he stopped chasing the ball because one of the other boys on the other team had stepped in a hole and twisted his ankle. My son was the only boy to stop and make sure his “opponent” was okay.
He also used to zing a baseball to me. He had a really good arm. Never could do it to his friends after he knocked one off his feet with a fastball that missed the glove and hit his friend in the head. What did he gravitate to? Music. My son’s a natural musician. He taught himself to play the piano. I can’t play a damn thing and I couldn’t be prouder of him.
My daughter was the one who had the neanderthal gene. When she was 3 and her brother was 5 I watched them play the ‘Floor is Lava’ game. They stood up on the couch (yeah I know but I didn’t care) and had to get across the room to a chair. My son took pillows off the couch and created jumping points to get safely across. My daughter just jumped into the “lava” like a wild child and screamed as she made her way across.
Being safe isn’t her thing, never has been.
She played softball. She had one thing going for her – a rocket arm she wasn’t afraid to use. She was a pitcher. You can’t teach speed, but you have to teach control. No matter how many pitching lessons she had, control was not her thing. Her first year pitching she either struck out girls or hit them. She felt bad. Year two? Same thing with the strike out or walk/hit them. I asked her after a game if she was okay hitting them. “Dad, they can see the ball coming. They just need to learn to duck.” She lost interest. Some if it I think had to do with her mother who never supported her, and me for having her pitch to me and hitting homers off her (it’s in my blood – see the father paragraph). She’s taken her aggressiveness and channeled it into being very skilled at arts and crafts, a great mother and will soon be a nurse… hopefully not Nurse Ratched but that remains to be seen. I can hear it now “Dad, they could see the shot coming. They just need to learn to keep their arm down so they don’t get a needle in the face.”
I guess I could have titled this “Watch Your Kids” but that seems to be more of a warning about the ills of society than anything else. But do watch your kids. Pay attention to the people they are growing up to be. They are their own person, not you, nor should you want them to be you. Help them discover, and celebrate, where they can excel.