Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Sports kids and parents

I am closely watching Sports Kids Moms and Dads on Bravo. I used to be a sports kid (I did gymnastics for 11 years), and I wanted to compare my experiences with those of the kids on this show. From what I see, I think I was pretty lucky.

My parents weren't trying to live out their dreams though me.

Through the years I have had numerous people tell me what a wonderful baseball player my father was when he was a kid/teenager. His team was state champion, and was close to making the Little League World Series (one out away from what I've been told). My dad gave me an appreciation for the sport. A visual appreciation. As in, I love to *watch* baseball. He never taught me how to play baseball, or, given that I'm female, softball. My father spent years coaching other people's children, including my friends and classmates, but never me. When I would go watch his teams play, the parents of some of the kids, who say my dad play when they were kids together, would always ask me why I was a gymnast instead of a softball player. I went through a phase where I felt my father would rather coach other people's children. So one day I asked him why he never played catch with me, why he never taught me how to bad, why he never signed me up for Little League or encouraged me to play softball. He told me that he was afraid he would be too hard on me because I was his daughter and not just another kid he was coaching. He didn't want to push me too much.

Thanks, Dad, for not being one of those parents.

My mom was much more involved with my gymnastics than my father was. My mom took me to practice. My mom was the one who came to almost all of my meets. She was involved in my gymnastics club's parents group. She was always involved and invested, but never pushed me. There was one time when I was really frustrated for a time because I wasn't progressing as quickly as some of my teammates were, even though I was working just as hard. She gently told me that if I was no longer enjoying the sport that it would be okay if I quit. At the time I got angry, because I projected my frustration onto her and took her comment to mean that she thought I was a bad gymnast and should just give it up. Now I realize that she said that because she didn't want me to be unhappy, and that I shouldn't continue if it wasn't what I wanted to be doing. I am sure there are a lot of kids out there who wish their parents would say that to them.

In the end I stayed in gymanstics through my senior year of high school. My parents sacrificed a lot to keep me in gymnastics through eighth grade because it's an expensive sport. I then went on to a public high school with a gymnastics team, which meant my coaching and meets were free. I felt I owed it to them to participate for free after the sacrifice they made for me. That was what *I* decided, not what they decided for me.

Without spoilers, I worry about some of the kids (though not all) on this show. I wonder how much fun they are having. In some cases I see the goals as the parents' dreams and not those of the child. Are these kids going to look back and feel like they were missing out of something? Or will they be happy about what they learned about themselves while participating in sport at such a high level? Unfortunately they won't know until they grow up.