Tag Archives: sports

Just (Try to) Do It.

I was watching my oldest daughter play soccer on Friday night.  I’ve watched my oldest daughter play soccer since she was 5.  I’ve watched her enjoy playing soccer for the past 5 seasons.   I’ve watched my little girl, since she was 5, for 5 seasons; play a game she is not very good at.

Yes, my daughter is not a very good soccer player.  Although it pains me (like Spiderman deliberately ignoring his Spider-Sense), I indeed said it.  It’s true.  Hannah is not a very good soccer player. I have never been of the ilk to believe my children have been chosen for some predestined on the field greatness.  I’m not reliving my childhood aspirations through them.  I have no desire to come to fisticuffs with coaches if she were not to play enough minutes in a game.  I want to cheer at everything, not yell at mistakes or missed opportunities.  I want my kids to play sports for what they were intended to be, fun.  Most of all I want my daughter to try.

But we live in a ‘Just Do It’ Nike culture. So I ask myself, is the most important lesson for my children to learn, ‘Just Do It’?  Or is it more important for them to recognize, sometimes, you can’t, just do it?  Sometimes you fall.  Sometimes you miss the goal (or the ball altogether).  Sometimes you lose but that shouldn’t stop you from trying and then trying again if need be.  Shouldn’t I be teaching them, in order to do anything, we first need to try (and maybe fail)?  Shouldn’t I also be teaching them, when we do fail, it does not mean we quit but we try harder next time (this is exactly philosophy my cousin Carl and I used to finish Kid Icarus on the old Nintendo after about 13hrs of continuous playing)?

The worst thing I could think of would be for her to stop trying.  What if my kids had stopped trying to walk (I’d most likely own the largest and most uncomfortable baby carrier in the world and have 4 to 5 herniated discs)?  What if, because they didn’t start talking by reciting the Gettysburg Address, they stopped trying to talk completely (Thus never saying ‘Dada’ before ‘Momma’)?  The lesson is, my children’s entire lives have been made up of trying.

But haven’t all of our lives have been made up of trying? When we failed, we tried again until we were finally able, as Nike tells us, to just do it.  A trait I think is much more important because it’s easy to say ‘just do it’ but it’s hard to dust yourself off after failing and keep trying to do it.

This is why, as I see Hannah running around the field with determination in her eyes, sweat on her forehead, and her tongue slightly sticking out of her mouth, I know it’s not important whether or not she can loft the corner kick over the defender’s head, it’s important she doesn’t stop trying.

I played basketball.  I was not the greatest basketball player, I knew this, but it never stopped me from trying.  I tried harder than anyone on the court (whenever I was lucky enough to get on the court).  I kept trying, even as my prowess on the pine peaked at ‘pretty good but not great’.  So I suspect Hannah will continue to play soccer and maybe, as she keeps going, she will become great.  Or maybe she will be good or even just ok.  There’s nothing wrong with any of those outcomes.  Because since she was 5, she has never been discouraged.  As other kids were doing kicks she couldn’t do, she never stopped trying to do those kicks too.

I’m watching her this past Friday night and I don’t care if she scores 6 goals and has 5 assists or can’t get out of her own way because I see how much fun she is having and how hard she is trying. Its written all over her face.  As she continues on (in soccer or anything else), if she continues to try to do, I don’t care if she ends up being great, good, or ok because I’ll never stop cheering and never stop being proud of her.

Let the Games Begin

‘Let the Games Begin’. That phrase is more appropriate than ever before. Every time I turn around, my kids are bringing home another form to fill out for another activity or sport, and mainly sports. Soccer is the worst offender of this.  If I remember correctly, we got a form for soccer sign-ups three days after my wife gave birth to our oldest daughter (never too young to start I guess)? Sign-ups for soccer, basketball, tee-ball, softball, dance, karate, gymnastics, Girl Scouts, field hockey, cheerleading, and Persian krimanchuli yodeling (ok, I may have made up the yodeling) just as they are learning to walk.

And what do we, their parents, do? We put our kids in to these organized, structured sports that are overly emphasized for their importance from the youth leagues running them, the coaches, and the parents who, with their unreal expectations for their children, are in the stands (usually punching one another in the face while the games are going on).  This is not to say I don’t think sports have their place nor is it not to say that my kids don’t participate in some of these very things.  I played sports growing up but my parents never viewed them than anything more than games which is why I enjoyed them so much and also why I never signed a long term contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.  Though, thanks to my parents, I view the sports my kids participate in the same way…as games. But I also have another view of what sports can. Stifling.

My kids are right at the peak of their power of imagination.  They have yet to be hit in the head by life’s 9 Iron (repeatedly) into viewing life in the societal box of thinking.  They still lay on the ground to look at the clouds.  They take their shoes off to feel the grass on their feet.  They still create underwater landscapes and school classrooms in the basement.  Life, to them, is not black and white, but like a box of Crayola 64’s.

What sports can do, is begin to steal a multi-colored world for black and white and fold in that figurative box.  There are rules.  There are certain ways to kick, catch, run, throw, hit, shake your Pom-Poms, and yodel, all of which don’t allow for a lot of improvisation at their age (“We have to teach the right fundamentals”).  I don’t want to push away their imaginations and creativity just for the sake of learning how to properly execute a cruyff.

So while they play organized sports, I make sure they get a chance to play unorganized sports.  This includes spur of the moment races from the car to the front door or up the steps to the second floor (loser smells like poop).  We play hide and go seek and make up the rules as we go along.  We make obstacle courses, from our own imaginations, in the basement to run through.  We play catch by throwing a ball on the roof of the house and waiting to see where it comes off.  Tag, freeze tag, who can hop on one leg longer than everyone else, who can guzzle their drink fastest.  No real rules other than the ones we decide at that time.  No fundamentals needed.  No screaming coach who believes his stint as youth baseball coach is just the first step to becoming the next Tony LaRussa. No parents pummeling each other in the bleachers. No whistles. No out of bounds.

Trying new games. Open to suggestions. Figuring it out as we go along. It’s a bit like the first Olympics at our house (minus naked Greeks and the Olive branch crowns).

I like sports. I played them.  My kids like sports. They play sports. Like most other things in this society, they have their place.  Sports can teach teamwork, achievement, reaching for a goal, camaraderie, and discipline. All good traits to learn but so is recognizing these sports are just games (too often too many forget that part of it).  Their imaginations and creativity and freedom from that structure can be good traits too because they teach them that you don’t always need a field, nets, or coaches to let the games begin.