I think I was around 7 or 8 when I participated in my first school Field Day. If you don’t know what that is, it’s like a festival of physical games held at the end of the school year. Kids compete in activities like potato sack races, tug of war or water balloon tosses. It’s just pure active fun.
And yet, I still remember that my love of Field Day quickly withered after I overheard a comment my mom made to a fellow parent.
“She’s no athlete, that’s for sure,” she said. “I guess she got that from both of us.”
And while it was true that I was “no athlete” and my parents were not athletic either, I’m not sure that was really essential to participate in Field Day. Sure, kids who were more athletic probably excelled in some of the challenges. But even those kids could get tripped up trying to make their way across a soccer field in a sack.
Now, before I come down too hard on my mother, who really didn’t mean to come off harsh, the truth is that there were lots of times throughout my childhood when I realized that I was not an athletic kid. My biggest fear in school was not being called on in class but being picked dead-last for dodgeball. My second biggest fear was that I’d be the one who let down my team by not catching the pop-up in the outfield or missing the free throw.
I was not innately physical or good at physical activities, and I knew it. Most kids do. But that’s a problem. Because it can set kids up to not enjoy physical activities at all. It can force them deeper into those couch cushions. And it never gives them the chance to tap into some physical activity for the fun and benefit of it, not necessarily to strive to be some super athlete.
In Metro Parent’s September 2018 cover story, “Building Your Child’s Physical IQ,” we offer tips to help your child tap into their physical abilities and interests in a way that doesn’t have to be about competition and competency.
For starters, it helps if you expand your horizons – and theirs – in the activities that you consider. It’s not all softball, soccer and basketball. Team sports can be too much for some kids. Individual athletic activities like aerial yoga, a passion of this month’s CoverKid, can be a better fit.
For me, it is swimming. I’m no Michael Phelps or Missy Franklin. Far from it. I’ve lost decades where I barely dipped my toe in a pool. And yet when I started going back to the pool, I loved it. Good at it? Not really. Good for me? Most definitely.
We owe it to our kids – even the less sporty ones – to help them find some physical fun that, hopefully, will be a passion throughout their lives.