Opting Out

It appears to be soccer season again. Or, so a lot of the pictures in my Facebook feed would have me believe. I’m wondering though. Does soccer season ever really end? It feels like it’s always soccer season. Just one never-ending loop of panic-registering after the deadline has already passed, figuring out where to go for practice, complaining about how far away the games are, finding missing shorts, trying on shin guards to see if they kind of, sort of still fit. Soccer appears to be a sport of perpetuity.

We only participated in approximately 1.5 seasons of soccer. Mostly because certain members of this family (Charlie. It was Charlie.) were lacking in effort.

Let us never forget the great soccer experiment of 2015

That year was the last time our clan tried on team sports. Sure, there was a little dabble with basketball here and the occasional talk about baseball there, but none of my children have been clamoring to engage in a team sport. None of them are out kicking around the soccer ball until I have to drag them in for dinner. I never find a kid absorbed in Youtube videos about pitching technique and stance. No one is tearing themselves away from Netflix to practice anything, really.

The closest I get to a kid being super into a sport is Millie’s current infatuation with gymnastics. I think she’s just in it for the sparkly leotards. Regardless, for the better part of this summer, Millie decided, instead of simply walking out of any room she happened to be in, she would somersault out of any room she happened to be in. Done with a bath? Somersault to her bedroom. Done with dinner? Somersault to the living room. Nighttime story read? Somersault to bed.

giphy-6

So, outside of one (1) somersaulting five-year-old, there is zero (0) interest in team sports around here. Sometimes, I wonder if our kids are broken. Should they be more eager to do all of the things everyone else’s kids seem eager to do? Maybe we broke them. Should we be fostering more of a competitive team sports attitude? Because team sports are a big, big deal around these parts.

When I was in elementary school, I joined the “basketball team.” It was more of a “basketball club.” We met at the end of the school day, in the gym, and practiced for a bit and then scrimmaged for a bit. (Is “scrimmaged” the right word? I’m not sure. I’m not very sporty.) The whole thing was pretty low pressure. One time, during a scrimmage(?), I sort of ran – completely forgetting to dribble – with the basketball to the wrong end of the court to try to make a basket. Everyone was yelling at me to turn around but I did not hear or understand them. When I did finally grasp the error of my eagerness and excitedness, I was so embarrassed that I wanted to quit the team immediately. My parents were all, “Nope. You need to finish what you started. You need to honor your commitment.” It was shortly thereafter that I took up horseback riding.

In my day, elementary school was kind of the breeding ground to try on different sports to see what stuck. Then, those interests were fostered in middle school and then really ramped up in high school. That’s when I can remember my siblings playing on our high school’s tennis teams and my friends playing on the basketball, football and track teams. When I wasn’t horseback riding, I was on the National Honor Society Team (TOTALLY a thing. Probably. Somewhere).

But things are so different now. Kids start team sports at such a young age. There are tiny, tiny people playing all kinds of sports. I don’t even think Charlie would have been potty-trained if we had started him in soccer at the age some of his teammates began. And then, the longer we waited to jump on the team sports train, the wider the skill gap grew between my kids and the other kids. It’s hard to imagine my middle schooler starting a sport that his teammates have been playing for seven or eight years already. Now, I’m too scared for my kids to try a team sport. They will TOTALLY run the basketball to the wrong goal.

There’s also all of the logistics to manage of kids involved in heavy extracurriculars. It took us a full season just to recover from that last soccer season. There was so much running around and eating in the car and stressing over homework completion. All that effort and frenetic energy just didn’t feel worth it when my kids were all, “Soccer is okay, I guess,” at the end of the day. It’s like they’re just simply tolerating the activities. Amusing us. I have friends and family whose children are unbelievably passionate about their sport. One friend’s daughter is a very talented gymnast. My nieces and nephews are all phenomenal at volleyball and softball and baseball and tennis. My brother’s daughter – who is THIRTEEN – spent her summer in New York City practicing ballet. That is some next-level commitment. She’s amazing! If even ONE of my children were to get super psyched about a sport, I would most likely indulge their interest but my kids seem perfectly content playing Minecraft or building with Lego or reading their favorite books or just hanging out at home. Everyone loves to just… be. I mean, Charlie comes home from school and immediately changes into his pajamas. At three o’clock in the afternoon. It will not surprise you that this is a point of pride for me.

Maybe this really is all my fault.

I think we’ve landed on being a non-team team sports family. Which, for us, means fostering skills and interests that are less organized but could turn into something later, maybe? Possibly when the kids are old enough to drive themselves to their own activities and we’ve aged out of team snacks? I want my kids to be sporty but without all of the commitment.

So, we basically have our own on-site rifle and archery range here at the house. Nary a weekend goes by that there aren’t arrows being lobbed (mostly) in the direction of a target around here. Charlie has become quite a sharp shooter with his BB gun. Bob started skiing with the boys this past year which Henry really took a liking to. This year Millie gets added to the mix and if you don’t think she will absolutely shred those slopes on a snowboard well, you’ve underestimated the most able of our pack. The Appalachian Trail runs along the mountain ridge behind our house so we also spend a fair amount of time hiking with the kids. Bob drags them on bike rides. The pond across the street is stocked for fishing. They spent all summer in the pool and have become adept swimmers. And, in a sunrise/sunset moment Charlie took his first horseback-riding lessons this summer at a neighbor’s farm.

We do stuff but it’s not necessarily what everyone else is doing and sometimes that knowledge makes me feel like I’m doing it all wrong.

I think my greatest hope is that my kids find a passion for something. I want them to be able to pursue an activity or sport that really holds their interest. I would be happy to facilitate that but I don’t think we’re there yet. Perhaps I should go and find a gymnastics class for my somersaulting panda.

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