Why We Find it Hard to do Sports

Eggmaster e-mailed me a NYT story on kids whose growing bodies aren’t quite ready for the demands of competitive sports.

When Violet was little (like 3-4), we resisted organized sports for her. She didn’t show any interest, we didn’t think organized sports were age-appropriate, and we didn’t want to take up any more family time with activities.

Victoria was born when Violet was 4, so I wasn’t about to add games and practices to the schedule. Then came Kindergarten, and a host of family issues I won’t write about now, but one of them includes a fire in our kitchen that forced us to move out of the house during repairs. (9 weeks with no kitchen!!). Violet tried dance, but soon decided that she wanted to have one day (Saturday) that didn’t involve getting up and running out the door.

Then came 1st grade, when life became a mess of meetings with the school, driving to two schools, homework (!), and my own work and massive volunteer commitment. Games and practices again didn’t seem important.

Then came homeschool, and since then Violet has done horseback riding, golf, ice skating, and fencing — so far ice skating and golf are the ones she wants to stick with — and Victoria has tried ice skating and dance (both going strong). The key for success with these activities is in part having them during the “schoolday,” as even the girls, with their loosey-goosey schedules, sense the disruption to the evenings or weekends.

So far, however, no team sports.

I’m thinking of having Victoria do a soccer camp this summer. She’ll be five, and I think she’ll really like it. I’ve had some time to learn about the options and I think we can find an appropriate choice.

With Violet — as always! — I worry that I’ve blown it. She’ll be turning 9 soon, and there are precious few beginning 9 year olds in things like soccer and softball. I’m also just plain not willing to put in the time — 2-3 nights a week. I confess, I put in the time for the play, but that was for a passion and talent of hers, in a setting that I knew to be very homeschool-friendly, very focused on nuturing the talents of each individual child.

We’re not a sports family — neither of us watch sports of any kind on TV. I enjoy things like skating, dancing, and hiking, but team things . . . I was a softball pitcher back in the day, and the pressure was so intense, and my self-consciousness so unnaturally extreme, that even now I wince a bit to think of it.

I should confess I have a special little bitterness reserved for sports culture, which is so often set in competition with a culture I happen to love, that is, academics. It bugs me that from Kindergarten to college, athletic achievement is celebrated, even worshiped, while . . . do I even have to spell this out? It bugs me that kids with unusual athletic talent can “accelerate” in their fields while academic acceleration is in practice, regardless of what a school may say, fought tooth and nail. It bugs me that parents feel free to talk about their kids’ athletic activities, but not about their academic successes. There’s a little irrational part of me that sees sports culture as the enemy.

Still, I think this may be the summer of sports for us, as an experiment with something new. (And though summer is far away, now is the time that summer camps and schedules start to fill!) I know there are many homeschool families for whom sports are very important, especially if sports are a special talent area for one or more children. I don’t think we’re ever going to be one of those families–especially not after reading articles like the one above!–but I do want my kids to have the chance to enjoy some of the benefits of sports, if they want to. And so long as my schedule isn’t too disrupted.



Filed under Gifted Ed, Home Preschool, In the News, Our Philosophy (such as it is), Socialization, Why Homeschool?

5 responses to “Why We Find it Hard to do Sports

  1. knittingthewind

    Ick, sports! And worse, team sports! My country is basically one big sports team, so being a frilly girly girl who wouldn’t know how to kick a ball even if you gave her a whole course of study in it, I find life here difficult sometimes. They take away regular programmes to put on sports specials!! They talk about yachting for weeks and weeeeeeks. I hate sports.

    Rose did do dancing, but when I was advised to keep her fit but not too overly active, I was relieved. Now I have a good excuse to deny her rugby, softball, cricket, netball, all the other ew-yucky things that BOYS do.

  2. I think some people are suited to team sports and some people prefer individual activities. For me, the important thing has always been doing some physical activity and finding physical activities Tigger enjoys so that she can stay fit in a fun way.

    In addition, I am not competitive and neither is she. So finding ways of doing team sports that are not about preparing elite athletes (also probably an issue with things like figure skating and gymnastics) but about having fun and learning skills is also important. In that context, she has enjoyed team sports like basketball and softball. But once a week is fine. There is no good reason for 3 nights a week for a recreational activity.

    You might find the book Go Girl! by Hannah Storm interesting and helpful. She goes through a whole range of issues about girls and sports including how to choose, how to identify a good program, etc.

  3. I was somewhat anti-sports when I was growing up, mainly because my mother was (which is kind of sad because my sister was excelled in sports and probably didn’t feel very supported.)

    But when I was a teenager I got really into martial arts and that opened my mind and made me more than tolerant of sports. I no longer think you have to be in a jock or nerd camp.

    Pere, who is definitely a smarty nerd, also played water polo and did diving and is a BIG basketball fan.

    So Z has grown up feeling like sports are acceptable and fun.

    But I agree about how much time they take from the day, at what I think is at a way too young age. Even stuff like dance! They want your kid in there two – three times a week starting at age eight.

    I have declined to let Z specialize in any sport as of yet. She likes the more solitary sports like gymnastics, dance and martial arts over team sports.

    Team sports, especially soccer, are really popular in our neighborhood. (several of the boys are quite good) and team sports in general are huge in Indiana. I think the the whole thing is too competitive in our area but if Z really wanted to try I would let her. But, at the moment, that is not something she has asked for and I am not going to worry about it.

  4. You said, “It bugs me that kids with unusual athletic talent can “accelerate” in their fields while academic acceleration is in practice, regardless of what a school may say, fought tooth and nail. It bugs me that parents feel free to talk about their kids’ athletic activities, but not about their academic successes. There’s a little irrational part of me that sees sports culture as the enemy.”

    I can’t agree more. I know I sound like a big, fat whiner, and I’m sorry, and I know other people have larger problems than this, but as a parent, I tend to think that the ability to tell about what your child is doing, factually and without embellishment or pridefulness, should be the right of every parent.

    But it’s not.

    It’s certainly fine if you want to explain about how your kid is participating in a ballet, or that your kid got the trophy for the interscholastic soccer match, or even that your kid got a contract modeling. That’s totally fine.

    But it’s not okay to say that your seven-year-old got an “A” from her online high school class in English, or that your four-year-old thinks _The Lord of the Rings_ is the coolest book he’s ever read. I know this subject’s been explored to death and beyond, but the inequity still bothers me because, well, it’s an inequity.

    Good post.

  5. Thanks for the added thoughts, guys.

    I understand that “big, fat whiner” thing — I’m certain even well-wishers have stopped by the blog and had that very thought. But whatever . . . maybe some days I am whining. And sometimes I suppose this blog reads like an eternal Christmas letter! That sense of isolation is so real, though, and it can really get you down sometimes.

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