I came across this story:
The Futility Of Sport For The Non-Athletic Kid
In which we determine that not everyone gets what they want, but if we try, sometimes, we get what we need
I got the overall gist, but I found it too wordy. And I disagreed with it.
Before I talk (too much) about my family, let me mention my wife’s nephew. He’s the first person who came to mind when I read this story. Overweight, awkward, totally and utterly unathletic. Well, he liked soccer, and he was actually good at it, his heavy body type notwithstanding. My wife coaches tennis and, once a week, would make the kids run and do various weird exercises (bear crawls! crab walks! monkey jumps!). When my in-laws visited us, she’d try to get her nephew to join and always fail. The dad (my wife’s brother) said his son had heavy bones and running would be bad for his heart. For better or worse, the kid accepted his reputation of being unathletic and breathed heavily when he joined us. He’d end up sitting out and holding on to his chest.
Several years later, he fell in love with football (American football!) and now plays for his high school. I recently visited my in-laws and was stunned by the transformation. Tall, strong, normal weight, scratched and bruised from the game he loves. I’m not sure how he discovered his passion, but he somehow did. His overprotective father no longer has any voice in the family. The kid shuts down any attempt to be treated like a baby needing protection.
Onto my kids — I have four. They all play sports at a high level. Did I see them distressed when they started their swimming classes or soccer practices? Absolutely. Did I see them give up or try to give up? Yes. But I also saw them excel or switch to other sports and excel. Doing sports is now an essential part of their lifestyles. They love it.
The challenge with kids is that nothing comes easy initially, so parents need to show patience and resolve. There is a fine line between forcing a sport on a kid and giving them a genuine opportunity to discover their athletic DNA. I think everyone has that DNA. It’s just a matter of time before we uncover it. How we use it — recreationally or professionally — is a different question. We are active creatures by design. We no longer have to hunt, but luckily there are activities like sports where we can channel our physical energy.
Now myself. I was that supposedly non-athletic kid. I did swimming in my very young years but stopped it when I was nine. In my elementary and middle school PE classes, I belonged to the slower and clumsier bunch. Running, cross-country skiing, soccer, and general fitness — I struggled compared to many of my schoolmates. I was sent to boarding school when I was fifteen and started to become a little sportier. I was mediocre and still unathletic, but I tried my best and participated in a couple of sports — swimming which was the only activity where I had some skill — and I started to run a little.
Fast forward 25 years, and I’m starting to win marathons in my age group. Not major ones (that’s to come, I hope!) but meaningful events with thousands of participants. I found so much joy and so much grace in running.
Of course, at some point, as you grow older, you miss the train. If you’ve spent decades avoiding physical activity and not liking sports, it’s probably impossible to acquire a hobby in sports. But missing doesn’t mean you weren’t able in the first place — as a kid or adult. “Non-athletic” is a made-up false construct.