The boy and I have had an often contemptuous relationship in regards to sports; or rather my desire for the boy to play sports and his desire not to. When he was in kindergarten, my husband and I encouraged him to run-not because he was the fastest kid out there, but rather because he needed an opportunity to get to know his classmates better. Cross country afforded him this chance. He stayed with Cross Country for three years, before deciding one day he was done. I couldn’t blame him-running has never been something I enjoyed either. But after taking one year off, he decided to try again and ran for the next two years until ankle surgery forced his “retirement” from the field.
When he was in third grade I encouraged him to play baseball-something he was open to. But “just” playing baseball was boring for him. He would have much rather played “There’s dragons and I need to employ this bat/scepter with special powers and abilities-to take them down”. He muddled through that first year the best he could…not playing particularly well-not paying attention when needed and well frankly not really playing baseball at all.
When fourth grade baseball rolled around the boy was surprised to find I had signed him up again. “Mom, this isn’t my game” he warned. “Bay, just try, please? You may find now a year older you like the game…” I encouraged. In truth I wanted him to play because the team was good enough to win a championship that year. Who cared if he didn’t want to play..at least he would be part of a winning team; A mother’s arrogance. Sure enough the team won their division tournament and we came home with a trophy-one I told myself the boy could look back with pride one day-when in actuality, it was my pride, not his.
Then all references to sports stopped. I was tired of trying to make my boy into something he wasn’t and didn’t want him to end up hating me as an unintended result. So the only sport the boy excelled in his final years in middle school was as a participant on the quiz bowl team–which was fine and dandy for his dad and I.
On the first day of Freshman orientation last March, the school administration announced that any student who participated in two years of athletics, would be exempt from physical education classes. The boy turned to his father and said, “Dad can you teach me to throw discus and shot-put?” My husband (threw shot-put and hammer in college) skeptical at the time said, “Only if you’re truly interested…” “Oh I am!” the boy declared. Looking at my husband I remarked, “I don’t know if he’s interested just to get out of phys ed…” “I know, but little does he know the preparation it takes to get ready…” “Well he’ll learn…” I replied.
Yesterday was the boy’s first ever track meet and as one might expect isn’t very good…but he’s trying. As the only Freshman on the team I found his teammates and coach very supportive and encouraging him to do his best. “Mom I bombed” he said to me afterward. His father smiled and said, “Well look at the award you already locked up–most improved…” The boy smiled and said, “Yes or the most likely to come in last place…” “Bay, you’re a Freshman and this is your first meet. You will improve over time. The road to success is wide open”. “Absolutely..” his Father concurred and added… “also I can show you a few tricks to help you-if you’re interested.”
“Mom what did you really think…?” the boy asked before bedtime. “I thought for your first time ever, you did very well-I mean your last discus throw was your longest and while it wasn’t as far as the the others, I think if you continue training and lifting weights you’ll get better. Plus I liked how your teammates were encouraging you”. “Yeah their cool guys…goodnight momma” He said, giving me a hug before departing for bed.