Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Returning to the Scene of the Crime

My father made all three of us girls participate in organized sports when we were children. Every year, we had to choose at least one sport through the DYA (the YMCA equivalent for military kids). Every year, my sisters gleefully discussed their options and chose a sport or two. I grudgingly tried every sport available. I stood daydreaming on the defensive line in soccer while the attackers flew past me with the ball to score. I made daisy chains in right field during softball games and struck out looking every single time. I had countless double faults before I gave up on actually serving a tennis ball over the net. And then there was the year I tried basketball.

I signed up for basketball in the fourth grade. The season was shorter than the summer sports, so I felt like I was getting a break. Besides, only 5 players were on the court at a time! Even with regulations that forced everyone to play, I would still get plenty of bench time. I thought I would run up and down the court a few times, never actually touching the ball, and then I'd be free of athletic obligation for the year. It was an ingenious plan!

The first day of practice was a horrible day. I don't remember all the details of the day. It might have been the day that I hit my archenemy Laura in the head with my umbrella. Whatever the reason, I know that we were running late for practice, my mother was irritated with me, and I was in a foul mood. I had to use the bathroom, but Mom must have thought I was stalling. She told me in that tone to hold it until I got to practice. As I ran into the gym, desperately searching for a bathroom, I wet myself. The team groaned. Not only did they remember my incompetence from soccer and softball, but I was clearly addled in other ways as well.

The season continued in much the way I had planned. I warmed the bench for most of the time. When I was on the court, I ran around the periphery while my teammates pretended not to see me. Then, toward the end of the season, the ball somehow managed to get into my hands. I glanced around in a panic. All of my teammates were on the other end of the court. All of our opponents were on the other end of the court. I had the ball and the basket was wide open. I took a shot as everyone in the entire gym shouted, "Nooooooooooooo!" Somehow, the ball actually swished through the net. My coach immediately pulled me from the game. I had put the ball in the wrong basket.

I went back to biting my nails in right field for the rest of elementary school, until my father blessedly gave up on me in sixth grade. Years later, I discovered that I really do enjoy sports. I love to play volleyball and I've played softball on company teams. I'm far from the best player but I've learned how to let go and just have a good time. I think that's what Dad wanted all along. He just never could figure out how to make it happen, how to draw my attention outside of my head for a while. It must have been frustrating for him to watch me fail in so many different ways. It certainly was frustrating for me! I swore to never force my kids to participate in any activity, athletic or otherwise.

Last night, Jake had his first basketball practice. I wasn't as apprehensive as I expected to be. Jake was so excited - he loves any team sport and any new experience. It's easy for me to catch his attitude. Claire was excited too! She and I sat next to the wall watching the big kids until she just couldn't sit still any longer. She joined the pack when Coach told them to run laps. I am so happy for them. I love watching them move for the joy of movement. I love seeing Jake laugh and joke around with his teammates, secure in the knowledge that he has something to contribute. I finally understand what my dad wanted for me.


cheribear said...

I grew up much the same way with sports - I had such a hard time doing what seemed to come easily to everyone else. I wanted so badly to enjoy sports but was always too self-conscious about how much I sucked.

Only difference for me was my dad was even more disinterested in sports than I was - but the school made me participate in intramural sports. Boo!

Mary Witzl said...

Christy, our experiences are very close. I hated sports and P.E. with a real passion, and I was spectacularly uncoordinated and unathletic. The kids who were good at it made my life a misery, and I wasted so much time I could have spent doing far more interesting things. To make it all much worse, we lived in such a hot, smoggy town that any exertion made you feel quite ill, and for some reason, most of the P.E. teachers were sadistic.

As an adult, I love walking and hiking, and I am a very good swimmer. I still have no aptitude at sports, but I've learned to appreciate the joy of exertion. I wish I'd had teachers who could have taught me to do that earlier, but one thing I have learned is that whereas classroom teachers may work hard to help low academic achievers, P.E. teachers will always favor the athletically inclined and gear their classes to suit them.

Jen said...

That's great that you can look back and see what your dad was trying to accomplish. I hope Jake has a better basketball experience than you did! =)

Christy said...

Cheri - did you have intramurals instead of PE?

Holy crap, Mary! You are absolutely right! It has never even crossed my mind before, but kids who have gross motor issues really don't get the same remedial help as kids who have reading issues. That's a darn shame, isn't it? It makes me angry on behalf of all of the graceless kids in the world.

So far, so good, Jen! He is SO much more athletic than I am. Claire is too. They have their father's genes thank goodness. With my brains and his brawn, we're breeding superior children. (Kidding, Nick has brains too.)