A while ago, I wrote about how important being physically active is to me, and how it’s one of the values I hope to instill in my kids. I also talked about how I made a decision to force my youngest daughter into playing sports, because she had said no to every physical activity suggestion I made, until finally I told her I would decide for her.
Well now I’ve hit a wall with her, and I’m afraid I may have spoiled sports for her altogether.
A little background: My daughter has been in: ballet, tap dancing, cheerleading, swimming, soccer, gymnastics, volleyball, basketball, and rugby. I wish I were joking but I’m not. My philosophy up until she turned 10 was that I would allow her to choose her activity, so long as she completed the session. My only goal was to keep her fit, I didn’t care how she did it.
She even tried jogging with me at one point, thinking she might prefer ‘working out’ to sports. She didn’t.
But one day her swimming instructor said to me, “It’s as if your daughter is afraid to try new strokes, for fear that she embarrasses herself. I’d suggest keeping her in something long enough for her to become GOOD at it. Because when she gets better at a move, she will develop confidence. When she’s confident, she’s got a better chance of enjoying the sport.”
It was as if a light had gone off over my head. Quickly, I remembered that even as a young child learning to read, my daughter would refuse to sound letters and words out, instead wanting to get it perfectly (in her head) before giving it a try out loud.
So at that point, when she quit volleyball in favor of basketball, I told her that this decision would be final, and that she’d have to stick with basketball, no matter how much she would eventually tell me she dislikes it, because I wanted her to be able to feel confidence in herself, which I believed could only come when she stuck with something long enough to become good at it.
Well this week, dreading the basketball tryouts coming up, which would represent the beginning of her 3rd season in the sport, my daughter sent me a text (her preferred medium to communicate difficult things). She told me that she loathed basketball, that she was the worst one on the team and everyone knew it, that being there was sheer humiliation for her, and that she felt nothing but relief once practice was over. She begged & pleaded with me to let her quit.
I sensed a desperation in her that I had never felt before, and it scared me. Things that kids feel at 12 often feel like the ‘end of the world’ to them – I remember, because I was once 12, too – and I did not want me forcing her to endure what she called ‘humiliation’ once or twice a week to be the catalyst of something much, much worse.
So Mama’s got some soul-searching to do.
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