Some children are naturally athletic. Put a racket in their hand or a ball at their feet and wondrous things happen. Others have the means, the commitment, and the determination to excel in sports. Attending multiple practices a week, games every weekend, and qualifying for select or elite teams is what they strive for and succeed. It’s what they find their joy.
But not everyone.
Not every child enjoys practicing and playing sports that much. Not every family can afford the financial weight or the time commitment needed to enhance a skill. The for-profit sporting leagues will convince you otherwise. They will tell you to keep your child in sports and push them, even encourage them. Make sports the highest priority and they will improve they say. They’ll gain not only the skill, but also the desire to play. Shell out money season after season because otherwise you’re depriving your child the realistic chance to play in high school.
That’s nice, but I’m also realistic.
Last year, two of my children had a hundred kids in their elementary grade. That’ll more than double in middle school and again in high school. I’m not the only parent doing simple math on the sidelines. At eight, my child is second string in a rec league, and then at ten, s/he makes the second or third level select team. Even if said child continues to try their hardest, there’s a long way to go and a lot of effort to put forth if playing in high school is the goal.
Frankly, my children aren’t that motivated.
Not now. Not at six, eight, or eleven. They kind of like being kids. They like playing pickup ball at the neighbor’s or playing house in the backyard. One likes to read and build Legos more than practicing soccer drills. The middle likes to craft and pretend more than sweat on a field. The youngest quiet literally has her head in the clouds, counts stars, and debates if Pluto really is a planet. I know, I know, that if I don’t push them to continue playing the sports that we randomly chose in Kindergarten, they will fall behind on that dream of playing for their high school team. Yet whose dream is it anyway? Mine or theirs?
Not to mention, they are tired.
They’re tired of constantly running. Tired of living the rat race. We rush to school. We speed from school to practice. We hit a drive-thru or eat in the car en route to a sibling’s practice. Then we race home for homework, bath, and bedtime. There’s not time for free play. There’s no time to see friends unless they’re on the same team. There’s no time to be bored.
I kind of want my kids to be bored.
Just a little. They can make pretty impressive things with a giant box on a snow day. We have conversations that delve a little deeper than, “How was your day?” It’s interesting to see which career they pick when we have time to play the Game of Life.
Last season, we took a break.
An intentional, mindful, athletic break. Guess what? We survived. We played Scrabble for the first time. We’ve owned it for years. We make Christmas presents and cookies. We slept in on weekends and had home movie nights. We rode bikes when it was warm, played ping pong when it wasn’t. Sure, we got a little lazy and a bit out of shape. We have New Years Resolutions to fix that. We took the time to slow the pace, to be a little more present, and think about what we wanted to do.
This spring, they’re ready to play again. They’re rejuvenated and energized and ready to tackle the sports. Sports are great.