Friday, January 27, 2012

Play ball! Or whatever: Sept. 26, 2010

Sports blah blah blah more stuff about sports blah blah blah blaaaahhh. Thank god my husband is all over this topic because otherwise my sons would just have to go running with me and maybe learn the finer points of power yoga.

Parents in pursuit of the perfect sport
    One of the dozens of things I did not know about boys when I became the mother of a couple of them is that they need a sport. Not just any sport – they need the right sport. And apparently one of the roughly 8 million things we, as the parents of boys, are in charge of helping them figure out is which sport is the right sport.
    It takes a while to suss this out. Lots of false starts and seasons of lukewarm enthusiasm for a variety of pastimes. Most of it, I have discovered after about five years of standing on sidelines and sitting in bleachers, comes down to temperament. Are they social or solitary? Are they aggressive or laid back? Are they focused or frantic? How do they feel about getting hit with fast-moving objects? Or with fast-moving people?
    When I became the mother of sons, I just kind of assumed that, if they played any sport, they’d play baseball. That’s what boys do, right? (I read incessantly and rode horses a lot when I was a kid. My brother played baseball. This is the model I am working from: Girls= horses and books. Boys=baseball.)
All. The. Time.
    So when my oldest son expressed interest in trying Little League, we did baseball. He enjoyed it moderately and played it respectably for a few years, but decided to stop this year when two critical things happened: He turned 10, aging out of the coach-pitch league into the kid-pitch league, and his interest in golf bloomed into an obsession.
    Golf suits his temperament perfectly (solitary, deliberative, terrified of getting hit with fast-moving objects or people). He plays extremely well, and has even converted his father. They can disappear for hours and hours in to the rolling hills of a golf course.
    That left his little brother, who’s 5, in need of his sport. So this past spring we did baseball again.
Here’s the problem with baseball and my youngest son: Baseball involves some waiting. Some waiting and watching and standing and waiting some more. My youngest son is not wired for these activities. He is a whirling dervish, a perpetual motion machine equipped with surround sound speakers.
    His time in the outfield was torture for everyone involved. His times at bat worked out OK, except that he’d get bored waiting on base for something to happen and kind of…wander away.
    When the baseball season finally, mercifully, ended, my husband told me he was going to sign our little one up for soccer in the fall. So we bought the gear and showed up on a soccer field on a recent Saturday for the first time. And watched our youngest son find his sport.
    Endless running, incessant kicking, occasional falling and crashing into other players. This is a sport made for this kid. “What was your favorite part? “ I asked him after his fantastic first day on the field.
“I like the running and the kicking!” he crowed. “And the kicking and the running!”

    So now we’re a little farther down the road of helping our sons figure out what they like, what they don’t and how to capitalize on those things. And, most importantly, I will never again have to spend the spring hollering at my youngest son to stop lying down in the outfield.
The running and the kicking.
And the kicking and the running.

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