Toddlers and Team Sports

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Team sports give me anxiety. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge fan and love attending numerous sporting events throughout the year. I lived for football game days during college, and get excited about the energy during March Madness. But participating? Yeah. I will make up any excuse to get out of an impromptu volleyball match, soccer game, slow-pitch softball – even H-O-R-S-E. I have a huge fear of looking like a fool, and taking part in any of these activities would clearly reveal what those closest to me know well: I am no athlete.

In an ironic twist of fate, I am married to someone who is. Who happens to coach basketball, and is the athletic director at the school where we work. His life is sports.

He has graciously offered to take me out for a round of golf and has advised me if I consider taking up a particular sport. But I am so hindered by my lack of confidence that panic sets in, and I retreat from whatever I thought I had an interest in doing. I am instantly transported to my elementary and middle school days, where gym class was dreaded, and I was made fun of for my lack of ability. Even though I was in jazz and ballet classes and ended up becoming a fairly strong swimmer, I was never part of a true team sport.

When we had our kids, I swore I wouldn’t be the parent that lived vicariously. I didn’t want their lives to be a window to the opportunities I missed. But as I watch them grow, I can feel that desire strengthen as well. I could care less about how good they end up being at any given sport – but I do care about the effect being part of a team can have on them. I care about their confidence. I care about the commitment they will eventually make to see something through to the end, even if it’s not what they hoped it would be. I care about their ability to lead and see sports as a way to develop some of those important skills.

I see parents around me enrolling their children in soccer or basketball, and I know our day is coming. Our lives will be busy, running from school to games to our home for dinner and hopefully rest. My kids are young, but what better time to introduce them to a world they can be part of well into adulthood. It will not be about forcing them to participate but creating opportunities to explore and learn. I may get nervous when the ball is passed to me, but my children? They’ll be ready and waiting.  

Editor’s note: This post was written before the onset of the COVID-19 Crisis. Though many summer sports leagues have been canceled for 2020, we look forward to the day when our children can return to their beloved activities. 

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