November 6th, 2007

Ferry Wake


The other night, my husband and I (and my mom, when she could get a word in edgewise) had a rather heated discussion about kids and sports. (Actually, we mostly referenced a particular kid and a particular sport, but I think our finely-wrought arguments could be extrapolated out and applied to the larger questions at hand.)

So, in very compressed little nutshells, here’s where we fell:

One of us thinks that pretty much all kids can get better (maybe even get good at) any chosen sport with some amount of focus and effort. And if a kid is stuggling, falling behind or sitting on the bench, a little elbow grease oughta fix that. (By the way, this line of reasoning didn’t come with the contention that kids shouldn’t quit sports they hated, just that they may grow to like something more as they improved.)

The other one of us counters that not all sports are for all kids, and that part of what kids do in trying out different extra-curriculars is discover which things they love and are good at (working with the presumption that we tend to love that which we’re good at) and which things aren’t a proper match. And that, not unlike dumping a sketchy boyfriend, it’s a good idea for kids to move beyond certain ill-suited sports (or activities) so that they don’t end up feeling like inadequate klutzes themselves.

(One of us may dispute the other one’s account of this discussion, but since I’ve currently got the pen in hand, let’s go with this ...)

Both of us, by the way, love physical activity for a variety of reasons, including health, fresh air and fun, for us and for our little ones. We do, though, tend to choose rather different activities ourselves – one of us being more team oriented and competitive than the other. Maybe we bring our own leanings or baggage to this little chat, maybe not. 
(Well, okay, we do. Duh.)

So, where do y'all stand on this? As parents (or teachers or coaches), what’s our job? To say ‘stick it out’ or to say ‘why not move on’? To say ‘you’ll get better’ or to say ‘there are others who are better’? To say ‘I love this sport – try it with me’ or to ask ‘what sport do you love’? To say anything or just to ask and receive?

And also, doesn’t this really transcend the track, field and stadium and address questions of what we choose to apply ourselves to in general? Are we always the best judges of what we’re good at? (I mean, all the writers I know judge their work with utter arsenic, so where’s the objectivity there? And yet, if nobody’s passing you the ball and you don’t know why, maybe there’s not arsenic enough.) Do we grow in strength and character working at what we’re not good at or do we grow in strength and character recognizing what we’re not good at? Do we tend to be good at what we love and love what we’re good at, or is that myth? What do we believe about any of this, and what do we teach our kids – about interests, passions, effort and esteem? 

And sorry for the cloak and dagger phrasing here but I can be rather, um, convincing. So... I thought I should step out of the way and let you speak for yourselves. No doubt I won't hold my tongue for long :)