This afternoon I had a disturbing exchange with my daughter. The US Women’s Soccer team was playing the championship game against Japan. The entire twitterverse was, well… a twitter. These are exactly the sort of role models a young girl needs to see. For a fleeting moment the entire world seemed to be interested in women’s sports, and that’s the sort of thing that can spark a little girl’s imagination. So I took a chance.
At a quiet moment this afternoon, when her brother was taking a nap and the U.S. vs. Japan game was in its final exciting moments, I said to my daughter “Hey sweetheart. Do you want to watch the United States Girls Soccer team play in the world championship game?” Her response:
“No thank you, Daddy. I’d rather watch ‘Alice In Wonderland’”.
I know I said earlier that my daughter doesn’t have to be a varsity athlete. 48 hours haven’t changed my mind in that regard. But honestly, enough is enough. I haven’t pushed the sports with my kids, telling myself that they would find sports organically, on their own like I did. In these early years I’ve opted instead to emphasize all the OTHER stuff that makes for a well-rounded person – art, music, storytelling, fantasy. But after today’s exchange with my daughter I had to wonder if I haven’t over-corrected my stance (to use a sports metaphor). For crying out loud, the pediatrician predicts my daughter will be at least 5’10”, and my boy will be between 6’4” and 6’8” (!!!) I’ve got to at least give ‘em a CHANCE. Time to readjust.
Off to Toys R’ Us I went. $120 later and my kids had two new soccer balls (one blue, one pink), a portable soccer goal, and an adjustable Fisher Price basketball hoop for the backyard. I also resigned myself to a new rule around the house. First thing when Daddy gets home from work the kids get a choice: baseball, soccer or basketball. Whatever they choose we noodle around in the backyard for 5 or 10 minutes before we move on to anything else. That should cover the “informal” aspect of sports. The “formal” aspect is going to take a little more creativity.
The last time I took my daughter to an organized sporting activity was at our local J.C. We went to a football game (I enticed her with the promise of a hotdog and hot chocolate). She was largely unimpressed with the entire experience. If anything got her attention it was the cheerleaders (who sucked). I gave up taking her to games after that figuring she was too young. She’s older now, and I think it’s time “Alice In Wonderland” takes up a little less market share of her attention. So I have downloaded the local high school’s varsity girl’s athletic calendar for the 2011 and 2012 school year (by itself an act that when carried out by a 37 year-old man would normally raise eyebrows with the local Special Victims Unit) with the intention of taking my daughter to any number of games to show her that you can be athletic, and fierce and feminine at the same time.
But for now it’s all about putting the “fun” in fundamentals. I know, I know. I’m probably over-correcting my over-correction. As I said before, they don’t have to do sports if they don’t want to. But if they do want to, they stand the best chance if a big part of the way they think about sports is remembering how fun it was to kick the ball around in the backyard with their Dork Daddy.