When I was a kid, my favorite thing to do was play softball in the local youth league. I played softball from the tee-ball years up until middle school. I loved everything about the game and being a part of a team.
When we had kids, I hoped that they would eventually acquire a love for sports. Team sports were such an important part of my childhood that I hoped our kids would have a similar love.
My oldest tried tee-ball at my encouragement when she was in Kindergarten. While it was technically supposed to be the first year that kids had ever played the sport, it was evident that most of the kids on her team had played pretty competitively somewhere, even if it was just their own backyard. My poor daughter was the one running to third base instead of first base. She stuck it out through the season and then wanted to quit.
She asked about playing soccer the following season, so we happily registered her. At the age of six, she was the only one on the team who had never played team soccer before. She felt intimidated. While she picked up the game easily and did well for a first-time player, she didn’t want to play the following season. So we quit.
Most recently, my now 8-year-old daughter begged to take gymnastics. She had never taken an organized gymnastics class before, but I found a “Beginning Gymnastics” class at a local gym. Almost all of the girls in her class had been in gymnastics before and knew most of the fundamentals. Even her coach asked in a surprised tone, “Your daughter hasn’t taken a gymnastics class before?” I was confused – this was supposed to be a beginner’s class, but it was evident that my daughter was the only actual beginner. She was embarrassed and begged to quit.
Most of the kids that we’ve encountered have played team sports from at least the age of four if not earlier. At four years old, my kids were still running around the house naked or having meltdowns about which shoes they wanted to wear. There’s no way that they could’ve played a team sport successfully.
So what does this mean for kids that want to try a new sport in elementary school?
Well, I’m still trying to figure out the answer.
On one hand, it could be a motivator for kids to try harder and learn faster if they see their teammates and friends already familiar with the sport. On the other hand, is it possible that it keeps novice players from learning a new sport because they’re intimidated?
I look back and wonder if I should have forced my daughter to continue with tee-ball or soccer for another season so she could have a second opportunity to determine if she liked it. Most recently should I have made her continue with gymnastics even though she was the only true beginner in the class? Have I unintentionally given her a quitter’s attitude because I let her stop when things got tough?
I wish I knew the right answer.
I’ll never know if letting her quit was the right thing to do. What I do know is that for now, she is likely done with team sports and that makes me sad.