Posted by: Kate | May 13, 2008

Sports Personalities

Springtime in New England… the grass begins to take on a faintly greenish hue, the weather only dips below freezing a few nights a week, the birds’ feet have thawed out enough to allow them to bombard the birdfeeders with a desperation that is simultaneously sad and hilarious. 

It’s also the time of year when outdoor sports become a possibility.  It’s not a comfortable, fun excuse to run around in the warm sunshine just yet – that’s June – but it does provide the option of sending your children outside in light clothes without risking a visit from Social Services. 

When my daughter was four years old, she fell out of her twin-sized, regulation-height bed onto her carpeted floor and broke her collarbone.  Snapped the sucker right in two.  That put a damper on her ability to participate in any activity that might include physical contact for several months, and it put a damper on my willingness to let her risk that sort of activity for several more.  Then we got caught up in the frenzy which is packing and moving across the state, and thus she was five before we ever considered signing her up for an organized, team sport.

She had already taken beginner swimming lessons, and would continue to do so, but we wanted her to be a member of a team.  There were so many things she could learn: camaraderie, cooperation, patience, shared objectives, small-fish-big-pond…  And, with a little luck, a smidgen of grace and physical self-confidence, both of which her mother lacks in significant quantities. 

So we talked it over, her father and I, and very quickly landed on soccer.  Minimal equipment to start, straightforward rules, the cuteness of a cluster of toddlers bonking off each other on a pretty, green field.  She got all dressed in her t-shirt and shorts, shin guards and sneakers, and off we went.

It was a smashing failure.  Emily, for all of her intensity and forcefulness of personality, is not a physically aggressive kid.  In many ways, this is a good thing: we’ve worked hard to create a violence-free household and we don’t want her to push and shove her way to the front of every line.  But in soccer ways, she’s too passive; she falls back away from the ball, doesn’t run toward her own goal, flinches whenever another player gets too close.  She never scored one goal, the whole summer season, and when asked what her favorite thing was, she replied, “Sitting on the sidelines drinking juice.” 

The next summer, then, we cast about for a different team sport.  Emily loves, loves the idea of being on a team, and had experienced the same sort of dementia that I’m having now, when I want to have another baby and have forgotten the frustrating and disappointing aspects of the whole process: “Soccer was great!  I loved it!  It was so much fun!  I was really good at it!”  Self-esteem is not a problem for this child.

After some discussion, we collectively agreed that perhaps she would have more fun in a different sport, and our next attempt has been softball.  She’s now in her second season there, and it’s going ever so much better.  Softball allows her the physical space she needs to be able to concentrate and not feel intimidated, but still has the team spirit and practice times to help her focus and build some skills that I can’t teach her.  I’m not in love with the league, what with the surprise last-minute fees and righteousness of some of the other team parents, but it’s working for us.  For now.

We went through a similar trial-and-error process when we wanted to give Emily an outlet from some of her creative energy, of which she has plenty.  Dance lessons were not a success, because, well, she is her father’s daughter.   (Have you seen that man dance?)  But art lessons have gone over very well, and provide for a good wintertime activity.

And now our son is almost four and is entering into the sports mindset, himself.  We’re starting with soccer, again, because he insists that he wants nothing but.  He’s a far less aggressive child, personality-wise, than my daughter, so it will be very interesting to see whether he is physically more self-confident.  I’ll be sure to stock some extra juice for the sidelines, just in case.

Cross-posted at New England Mamas.



  1. I have a lifetime of experience with softball leagues. I’ve played, I’ve coached, I’ve umpired, I’ve cheered from the sidelines. You will never ever ever find a league that doesn’t have a few asshat parents.

    I’m glad she’s liking softball!!

  2. Who knows – your son may surprise you out on the field.

    Emily sounds like my son – he likes baseball better than soccer and is quite content letting the other kids have the ball. Very non aggressive. (I think that is why he and the piano clicked so well)
    Boy was I surprised when I signed up my daughter for the little hour long soccer class – she is a total maniac out there….aggressive and competitive. So – I have signed her up for the real deal.

    It is so true that each child is different. I can’t wait to see the personality of this 3rd one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: