Stoked for Sports, available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

Stoked for Sports


October 31, 2011

Our son, Oscar, played football as a fourth-grader last year. He was on a team of 3rd and 4th graders and though it was flag football, they wore full pads and helmets. There was plenty of contact: the boys were basically taught the first two steps of tackling—making contact and wrapping up—without taking someone to the ground.

I was uncertain how Oscar would take to the sport. I loved football when I got to play in high school and college intramurals. I made sure, though, that it was his decision to play, not mine. I encouraged him, and was able to describe the virtues of the game—teamwork, sportsmanship, courage, discipline—but I wanted him to want it for himself. He decided to give it a shot.

Turned out, he did great. He was not the fastest or strongest kid on the team, but excelled at the mental part of the game. Catholic Youth Organization is great about emphasizing participation, and he got to see the field a good bit during games. I had the time to be able to volunteer as an assistant coach, and it was gratifying to be out on the field with him during practices and games.

I have three hopes for our kids when it comes to athletics, and getting a good feel for a sport is one of them. Getting them to try a sport is one thing, but because they are beginners and lack skill, they are easily discouraged. For example, a 10-foot goal in basketball can be a long way to shoot a ball when you are in grade school. I hope to encourage them in a given sport long enough for them to get a real sense of the sport—not just how difficult it is, but how rewarding it can be.

Another hope is that they find something they are passionate about. That word “passion,” at its root, has to do with suffering. When it comes to sports, I certainly do not want my kids to suffer, but I do want them to find something they value enough that they are willing to sacrifice for it.

This year, when fall came around and signups for football started, I had a serious conversation with Oscar about his desire to play. In 5th grade, the game moves from flag football to tackle football. I knew that he had a good basis on which to decide, given his experience last fall. He seemed open to playing—“kinda” interested, he said—but there is no room for “kinda” in tackle football. It is a sport that demands commitment.

I asked him about other interests—soccer, for example, or climbing. His eyes lit up when I mentioned climbing. He has always loved to climb, mostly trees and climbing walls. Then this summer he climbed to the top of a smooth light pole next to our house like it was a palm tree. We’ve had him in a climbing summer camp before, but we haven’t given him a regular opportunity to climb.

So, instead of football this fall, we’re taking him to a bouldering gym twice a week. (Bouldering is climbing that does not exceed 10 feet high, and thus does not require ropes and harnesses.) His eyes genuinely light up when we are there. In gym lingo, he is “stoked.”

I suggested that he increase his ability by doing some exercises at home on non-climbing days. He has taken the challenge and is doing some pull-ups and push-ups now after school, and after several weeks of climbing, he is really improving. It is fun to see him having fun, and that he is willing to work at getting better.

The third hope I have for our kids and athletics is that they play at least one team sport, and Oscar has chosen basketball for that, which is great. Winter will be here before we know it.

There is a fine line between encouraging and pushing children in athletics. I’ve seen pushy parents who are too demanding of their kids, and most of the time both the child and the parent are miserable. Sports are, above all, a way to enjoy our bodies. There is a problem if a child doesn’t experience joy in an athletic experience. Yes, the agony of defeat is part of the game, but joy should not be absent.

Sports are also a way to grow in excellence through cultivation of habits—a lesson that translates very well into any other area of life. The key for me in this area is encouraging Oscar enough that he adopts that desire for excellence for himself. If I push him too hard, though, that desire becomes ordered not towards the particular excellence of the sport itself, but towards pleasing me and satisfying my authority.

Judging by his eyes in the climbing gym, he loves to climb and wants to get better. Which makes me, like, totally stoked, bro.

 

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

What I Learned in the Ice Bucket Challenge

What I Learned in the Ice Bucket Challenge

The “ice bucket challenge” is flooding the internet, and I knew it was just a matter of time until it reached me. I could see it closing in through our circles of friends and family. It arrived this week when my sister challenged me to participate.

 

I’ve been pondering what my response would be to this challenge. The basic premise is that a person either donates $100 to support research to fight ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), or donates $10 and dumps a bucket of ice water over their head to raise awareness. The participant then “calls out” others by publicly asking for their participation within 24 hours.

 

The whole phenomenon began early this past spring with a social media-based charity fundraising challenge to jump into freezing cold water. The ALS Association commandeered the bandwagon this summer when it morphed into a much safer ice bucket dump, and has raised more than $50 million, not to mention the public awareness of the disease from these viral videos.

 

(A little investigation reveals that the ALS Association supports research that uses embryonic stem cells, which is problematic. Many people are responding to the challenge by donating to institutions that fight disease with research that uses adult stem cells, such as the John Paul II Medical Research Institute: http://www.jp2mri.org.)

 

Lou Gehrig, the best first baseman to play baseball, was forced to retire at age 36 when he was struck with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The disease causes the deterioration of motor neurons, which control voluntary and involuntary muscle movement throughout the body. Muscle atrophy from the illness leads to paralysis and death.

 

Ice Bucket Challenge videos are captivating because it is fun to see how people we know react to the cold water dousing. It is also attractive to witness and be a part of a social movement that supports a worthy cause.

One reason for the success of the campaign is the public pressure it creates to follow through. Our whole family had been called out, and I felt like our whole circle of extended family and friends were watching to see if we’d participate—many of them completed the challenge, after all.

 

Something in me bristled at submitting to public pressure, and I wanted to be sure that our kids came away from this experience with the strength to follow their own convictions, whatever they are. The whole point, after all, is awareness and support for an important cause, so I talked with them about ALS, described the disease and the campaign, and encouraged them to respond to the challenge in a thoughtful way.

 

I laid out their options: They could just ignore it (a perfectly fine response that Stacey opted for—she’s not one to be pressured into anything). They could follow through and participate with a dousing and donation to raise awareness for ALS. Or they could use the opportunity to support or raise awareness about another cause they feel strongly about.

 

At bottom, the Ice Bucket Challenge earns the undivided attention of people in one’s social network who are watching for the payoff: a freezing-cold soaking. This is a privileged platform for our voice to be heard, so it should not be taken lightly. What a great opportunity to help our children learn about social action.

 

What did we end up doing? Watch here and see:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TslKGhg8f2g&list=UUmn5ZlSNS–S4oO6cQHQ7Zg

 

 


More For Your Marriage

Throughout www.foryourmarriage.org, links to other websites are provided solely for the user’s convenience.
USCCB assumes no responsibility for these websites, their content, or their sponsoring organizations.

Copyright © 2014, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved.
3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington DC 20017-1194, (202) 541-3000 © USCCB.

Stoked for Sports, available at: ForYourMarriage.org
Permalink: http://www.foryourmarriage.org/stoked-for-sports/