I’ll never forget ninth grade P.E. as my introduction to youth athletics. For an entire semester, we cycled through team sports, covering one per week. Basketball, badminton, base(soft)ball, soccer, track & field, and volleyball. This was, and is, my hell.
One afternoon during our volleyball unit, I cowered near the back corner of the court, desperately hoping that the ball would not smack me in the head. Another freshman on the other side of the net served the ball. I watched it sail towards me and positioned my arms to hit the ball but a wave of fear washed over me. I stepped out of the ball’s path.
Before I knew what happened, the P.E. teacher/coach was in my face, yelling “EDGECUMBE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? ARE YOU SCARED OF THE BALL?”
I looked back at him. “Well, YES. I am.”
And there ended my experience with team sports.
Let’s just say I didn’t run with the athletic crowd. But let’s back up a little bit.
Growing up, my family was super active. Dad was a competitive cyclist and runner. Mom did aerobics or went for long walks almost daily. My brothers kicked ass at pretty much any ball sport they attempted, specifically baseball. They played in rec leagues, on travel teams, and in the front yard.
I couldn’t throw a ball to hit my brother even when my dad had him pinned down. I stepped on my arm in middle school P.E. I tripped on flat ground. The only goal I scored in youth soccer was when someone kicked a ball at my head.
Needless to say…
I thought youth athletics were out of the question
I looked at my incredibly talented brothers and parents and believed I could never measure up. Because I was so afraid of not being good enough, I never even tried. And that’s why, looking back, I am against youth athletics.
Hear me out. I know that sports provide tons of benefits to kids. I don’t challenge that AT ALL. Running cross country when I got to middle and high school was a blessing.
I learned grit.
It helped me learn perseverance and discipline.
It taught me the importance of teamwork.
It gave me an opportunity to manage my time and priorities.
But it was also the first time that movement and exercise were made approachable.
Until I came across running as a sport, everything was too competitive and required too much coordination. And because sports seemed so freaking hard for me, I stayed away from all things physical and didn’t enjoy movement at all.
We teach most kids sports that require hand-eye or foot-eye coordination before we teach them that they can love movement on its own. And while this may work for 60% of kids, we can’t forget those for whom this is totally out of the question (like me!). I’m the kid who stepped on her own arm; let’s just say softball was not a good idea.
And if we are going to help kids learn to love movement, we have to make it approachable for everyone, helping them see that fitness and movement are for EVERYONE.
How can we do that?
So, let’s show kids that there are alternatives to standard youth athletics…and encourage them.
Circuit training and weight lifting are safe (and super beneficial) for children as young as eight years old.
Riding a bike or walking the dog can make movement fun.
Encourage kids to get outside and play games.
Showing that there is alternative to youth athletics will help more people enjoy physical activity, instead of feeling excluded.
Did you play sports as a kid?