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.