Racing To Conclusions

Posted on March 26, 2012. Filed under: Family, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Dear Lora,

My 6th grade son wants to play soccer for his school.  I want him to do track instead.  Our school recruited this amazing coach who was a US runner in the Beijing Olympics, who is super serious and teaches the technicalities of his sport and events.  While I don’t want to dictate, I think my son would benefit far more from his teachings than our more run-of-the-mill staff coaches who are catch-alls for boys soccer, girls volleyball, baseball, basketball, etc.  What should I do?

One Track Mind

Dear One Track,

My first thought was, WOW, your school landed a US Olympian?!?  That’s huge!  I wish my kids had access to someone of that caliber, you go girl!  Toss that “soccer mom” title to the side and make sure your son is on the right track!  Then, I had a second thought…

I must admit, I’m not a fan of running — at all!  In fact, the only time I run is when I’m being chased or there’s a shoe sale, so I am not the best person in the world to opine on the topic of track.  I just don’t get runners.  Honestly, when I see folks sprinting down my street, especially on cold, rainy mornings, I have this urge to stop and ask if they need a ride.

I’ve asked several of my friends who run for pleasure (if you can imagine) why they do it and they all answer the same: “because I love it”.   I believe them, otherwise, why would anyone do it?  Now a brisk walk, or even a decent stride, I can get my mind around, but running, I’m just not interested.

In my entire life, I’ve only run into one runner who admitted she’s not really a fan, but kept pounding the pavement anyway.  It’s one of our daughters buddies who joined the cross-country team, yes, the cross-country team (I won’t even drive across the country, let alone run it)!  When I asked her why she took up such a dreadful activity, she said it’s because she needed to put a sport on her college application.  CC was the only sport that didn’t require any skill, other than running, and the ability to deal with being bored for hours on end.

So unless you love it or want to use it as a tool to get into college, why would anyone on Gods green earth do it, right?  Okay, so I’m being overly dramatic, but I hope I’m making my point:  It’s hard to make someone do something they aren’t interested in.

These days I think we force kids to do things we want them to do way more than our parents did.  We take the notion that “mother knows best” to an entirely different level.   Hey, most of the time we do know what the better, in this case, track is, but not all of the time.

You’re clearly a good mom and have nothing but the best intentions for your child.  You want to make sure he has the best access to the most amazing teachers, coaches, etc.  However, trying to make your child play a sport they aren’t  jazzed about is like trying to make a cake in an Easy-Bake Oven – it’s just won’t work.  Even if you could fit the 9” pan in the small toy range, it’s impossible to really cook it with a 60 watt light bulb!

To be good at any sport, you need to be engaged, somewhat coordinated, and hope that your DNA matches up with your desired sport.

For example, let’s say you love playing basketball and that you are lucky enough to have the Zen Master himself, Phil Jackson, as your coach…if you’re a 5’ 8” white guy, you’re still not making it to the NBA.

So I’m not sure an Olympic track coach can do much for a kid who wishes they were on the grass bending it like Beckham, instead of trying to chase Bruce Jenner’s records.  Sure, he may learn some fancy techniques, but if his heart isn’t in it, there’s not a lot of fun in being the most skilled 10th place runner, right?  I mean, what color is that ribbon anyway, Magenta?

Here’s the thing, at the end of the day, I just don’t believe it really matters what any of us played in school.  No one has ever called to see if I was interested in a game of volleyball, nor has anyone asked my husband, Scooter, if he’d be interested in discussing a business deal over a game of hockey.  See what I’m saying?

Here’s something else to mull over: the odds of your child becoming a professional athlete of any kind is 22,000 to 1.  In my opinion, the odds of him turning pro at something he can’t stand – zero.

Even if your child digs his sport, he still has a better chance of winning an Academy Award than they he does at making it to the cover of a Wheaties box.  I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be with my son on the red carpet, rather than sitting in the hot, blistering sun watching him run around a track in an outfit which looks like it was inspired by Richard Simmons.

Ask yourself, what is the end goal?  To have your son hopefully end up in the Olympics, perhaps even win a gold medal?  Or to enjoy a sport and learn the meaning of being part of a team?

Maybe it just sounds good to say your son is being instructed by a real champion, but honestly, that and 3 bucks will get you a tall latte at Starbucks.  No one cares, and if they do, you don’t want to be friends with them.

I get that being in the presence of an Olympian at the age of 12 can be considered rarefied air, but for your son, being forced to run track instead of what he’s interested in may cause him to feel like his oxygen supply has been completely cutoff.

I vote for soccer – which by they way, I can’t stand either, but I’ll save that for another column.

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