Parenting | The Sports Dilemma
My 5th grader announced to me this spring she wanted to sign up for soccer in the fall. Not just soccer: “Also? Basketball in the winter and lacrosse in the spring, okay Mom?”
In some houses this would be no big deal – kids play sports all year round. But this kid? She’s never played on a single team.
I have to admit, I stopped short. I might have even offered a non-committal ‘Mmmmm’ the first time she mentioned these grand athletic plans.
How soon, my skeptical heart wondered. How soon before she figures out that most of the kids in this town have been playing since they were four, maybe five? How soon until her firstborn leader self realizes that she is far from the best on the field? And how come she had to wait until she wore women’s size 9 cleats to try this out??
I didn’t sign her up. For weeks I waited for her to let the idea go, to announce the next Big Plan – writing the screenplay for her favorite novel, sewing matching Halloween togas for she and her friend, researching her viability as a Presidential candidate in 2056.
As school got out, she mentioned it again, and announced her plans to random strangers walking by our house. She told her grandparents, and even convinced my mom to buy her a headband “like real soccer players wear.” During our long days at the pool, she’d stop mid-swim to ask me: “did you sign me up yet?”
So finally, I did. I signed her up, and in the little tick box on the website, the one that asks ‘what level of play is your child?’ I firmly clicked ‘Beginner.’
It’s brave for her to try this new thing. It may be she decides it’s not for her, the soccer or basketball or lacrosse. It may be that she hates it with every fiber of her being. But oh, what if she loves it? What if the kid who’s never played any sport finds that pushing her body to run harder and faster down the field thrills her differently than any novel could, or that throwing herself in front of a ball to stop it is such a rush that she doesn’t feel the bruises?
Here’s the thing: there are far bigger things at stake here than “letting my kid try a sport.” What’s happening here is allowing for the possibility.
If at 10 her mother gets all practical and tells her that it’s too late to try a sport, to learn a new skill, to pursue this vision of who she might be, what dreams might she let go at 18? At 25? At 40? May she always have a Grand New Plan. May she always move forward towards possibility, refusing to let the fear of risk or failure stop her. May she conquer the anxiety about the unknown and uncomfortable, and savor the magic that crackles up and down her spine, knowing she’s going after a dream. May the muddying of her size 9 cleats show her that at 10, anything is possible.