Sunday, March 22, 2009

Competition

My parents never forced me to play any sport or into any activity. They encouraged me to play and to at least try different things. I estimate, by a quick calculation, that I played 5 seasons of Little League Baseball, 8 or more seasons of intramural basketball and 8 seasons of football. Out of the 21 various teams I was part of only one championship team. I was an average athlete. My definition of average is that I did not completely suck.


I think organized sports and competition is important for a kid to experience. I do not think that every kid on every team should get a trophy. I do think that if a kid is playing a sport where keeping score is part of the game then they should keep score. I think when it comes to competition there are winners and losers. Being a good winner and being a good loser are important lessons to learn. Sports also helps teach lessons on teamwork, encouragement, adversity, humility, character and limits.

My parent's encouraging me to try different activities helped me discover what skills I had and what skills I needed to develop to accomplish various goals. I learned what I enjoyed doing and what I did not. I learned about when to be a leader and when to allow someone else lead. I learned valuable lessons from sports and teams when I was kid and I want my kids to be able to learn some of those same lessons. I will not force them to the play but I will encourage them.

I asked Maxfield if he was interested in playing any sports in the upcoming months. I told him he could play soccer, football, basketball and baseball (the four main township organized sports). Max told me he wanted to play on a bowling team. It was not the response I was anticipating. Max has never bowled in his life and I did not know where he developed an interest in the sport. During our conversation I tried to encourage Max to think about the other main sports. I was hoping he would have some desire to do some type of athletics but he had no interest. I did not want to force any one sport on him and I figure he would let me know if and when he wants to join a team.

Saturday morning I took Max to his first swim lesson. It was very traumatic for him. It was also very traumatic to me. Parents were not allowed to be in the pool with their children. The lead instructor felt that since swimming is not only a sport but also about survival that parents can be a distraction to their kids. I agree with that philosophy and I watched Max from the deck. Out of the 25 or so kids in the class Maxfield was the only one screaming and crying. He was scared. He was cold. He swallowed some water and was coughing. He cried for me to come and save him. My heart ached for him as for the first time in his life I did not "rescue" him. He pleaded and begged to get out. I realized that Max may not be cut out for athletic type of activities, but since he needs to learn to swim for survival purposes I told him to tough it out. He was very upset and kept yelling that he was scared. The twenty five minutes he was in the pool seemed like forever.

The lead instructor approached me to talk about the possibility that Max may not be ready for these types of classes. We briefly discussed a refund of the fee I paid and the instructor asked if I had any questions. I asked her if she knew how much bowling shoes cost.

On the way home from swim class Max was adamant about not going back. I tried to encourage him by various tactics but none of them seemed to work. He was mad that I did not come in and save him. He was upset with me. I felt horrible and guilty. I asked him what could I do to make it up to him. He asked to bowling (he could have asked for a pony and I would have got one for him I felt so bad). We agreed and as a bribe I told him as long as he attended swim class I would take him bowling each week.



Max went bowling for the first time on Saturday. I think he may have found his sport.


He did bowl with bumpers but he beat me fair and square, which he reminded of the entire drive home. Now I need to get him on a team so he can learn about being a good winner.

22 comments:

Mindy said...

He already looks like a pro!

I remember the day when my son started swim lessons. We had the exact same experience as you. It was awful, but he went back, and the teacher spent extra time with him, and FINALLY, he got it. He swims like a fish, now. The difference is that he really WANTED to swim, but was afraid. Your son just wanted to bowl. :)

kcinnova said...

Now how did he know already what his sport is? That's amazing.

I like your definition of average.

Anonymous said...

Bowling Shoes Are Cool !

Anonymous said...

As I read this I pictured Maxfield, with his bubbles around his waist and swallowing water, giving you the finger.

Bogart in P Towne said...

I hear the PBA pays well these days.

kimmyk said...

man thats such a scary/helpless feeling when you kid is crying out like that and you want to help but you know it will only make things worse.

i hope he enjoys swimming soon though. otherwise you're doomed cause he will let you know every day on that ride home.

he has good technique for bowling...i didn't realize they made balls that small for a lil' kid to throw. good for him! and although he totally kicked your ass, i'm sure it made him feel ten feet tall.

you let him win right? you really dont suck that bad do ya?

ehhh all in the name of fun!

Melinda said...

Not all jocks have to start at age 5, some start as late at age 7.

That is cool he beat you at bowling. I bet he loved that!

My daughter showed no interest in sports at all until age 14.
I suggested we go look at a rowing club that offered free tuition. (I feared a teenage couch potato was in the making.)
Well, she loved it! She trained 6 days a week and rowed for 5 years until university. She rowed internationally and brought home gold medals. Perhaps I am being the braggy mom, but damn, rowing is tough! I was so proud of her achievements. She worked hard and earned them all on her own.

I think I get the best word verifications. It is brateepo.

SciFi Dad said...

So far all my daughter's swimming has come with her mother in the pool with her, and even though my wife is a trained swimming teacher, I fear my daughter's first formal class will be a lot like Max's, even if she doesn't swallow water.

Stacie said...

Holy Moley...in those pics he looks like a pro bowler! I can't even bowl good with bumpers up I'm sure he'd have beaten me fair and square also. And what an awsome compromise for him to continue swim lessons...he may not be happy about it now but I bet he sprouts gills by the end of summer! Yay for Max! Don't feel guilty Bill, you're an awsome Dad!
Stacie

Jon said...

Once I was in middle school and older, my mom had a simple rule for my sisters and I when it came to organized activities... "no quitting." So if I joined the track team one year, I had to finish that season. I hope to pass the same lesson on to my kids when they're older. However when they're little, that lesson doesn't apply obviously. :-)

Patience said...

Pro bowlers don't make bad money these days!

Charity Donovan said...

Couldn't agree more! You did good daddy! Even though it may have sucked...you did good!!! I do love that he beat you at bowling though...a lil taste of WINNING heals all wounds.

Otter Thomas said...

I couldn't agree more with your take on competition in the first few paragraphs. I wish more people felt this way. The everyone gets a trophy mentality drives me crazy. I partially blame soccer. Everyone runs around and kicks a ball for fun. That is the jist of the sport for kids.

FilmFather said...

We had the same exact experience with swimming lessons with our 5-year-old boy last summer, and you described a parent's guilt, frustration, and helplessness to a T.

We signed him up for Little League this summer. Here's hoping he'll be as thrilled to play as he was when we registered back in January.

If LL doesn't work out, he has been showing an odd fascination with golf...

Sheri said...

He will find his sport. As his friends change thru the years, his desires will change as well.

I agree - if a score is meant to be kept, it should be kept and there should be winners and losers. It's called life.

Just a suggestion, is there somewhere that offers swimming lessons with parent involvement? It probably wasn't the swimming that worried him, but the detachment. Very understandable for the 1st born.

Ern said...

He has good form!

Lisa said...

I've been reading blogs for years and this is my first post. But the description of your son swimming hit home with me so I felt the need to jump in.

My four year old son was deathly afraid of getting his head wet and would just cling to me. I was adament about him learning to swim for safety reasons but I also didn't want it to continue to be so traumatic. Our local YMCA offered private lessons for a very reasonable cost and that has proven to be a god send.

The instructor is very patient and understanding. Danny now trusts her and is willing to try new things. He can float on his back and swim short distances, we are still wroking on going under water but he'll get there, he now loves swimming.

Hang in there and good luck. Your guy looks like a future hall of fame bowler, mine is a future Mikhail Baryshnikov (he thinks so anyway).

Oh, The Joys said...

He whuped you.

kittenpie said...

I'm totally with you on your feeling about sports for kids. We've got my daughtr into soccer finally this year, and she is trying out different kinds of dancing. We are, though, like you, of the opinion that swimming and skating are not optional - they are skills she should have. We were able to start hr young with a swim class that includes parnts, and move her to a bigger kids class as she grew older and was already comfortabl with the water. Maybe you could find a pool to visit with him a few times to help him get comfortable with you there so the lessons are not so scary? Pumpkinpie tends not to like things at first either, until she gains some confidence, so that could be his case as well. But I cannot believe how well he bowls! I've only broken 100 once or twice...

Anonymous said...

I actually was only part of 1 sporting team throughout my entire life! (Grade 5 basketball) I say this because I am well adjusted, good team player etc. I got the winning/losing etc from playing lots of board games at home, playing piano (testing, recitals with winners etc)... these lessons don't just come from playing sports, so don't be too discouraged if he doesn't enjoy them. He'll find (or has found!) what will work best for him... good luck :)

James said...

William that really must have been excruciating having to sit there and watch. I couldn't imagine not diving in with my cloths on to save my little guy, but of course he is not even two yet. I am sure it doesn't get any easier as they get older and those are the things I don't look forward to.

Great post, and I am glad he found a sport he enjoys.

Ali said...

Lauren (my Lauren, not yours)can beat the whole family at Wii bowling. She's the same age as Max. She doesn't even try, she is always skipping and jumping around and half the time she literally stands on her head as she swings her controller and she continues to get strike after strike after strike. It keeps you humble!