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.