Even kids who are not athletically inclined can benefit
If my parents had high hopes for me as an athlete, they were sorely disappointed.
I never had a hint of interest in team sports when I was young and probably didn’t even own a pair of sneakers until I was in my teens.
But I do remember my first time on skis. I was about seven. I recall the terrifying ride up the T-bar, and then halfway down the hill I became so frustrated from falling that I took off my skis, threw them in the woods and walked the rest of the way down.
After a few hot chocolates to calm me, I tried again. This time, I started to catch on. Skiing soon became a regular part of my life. Our family would get season passes every winter and my friends and I would be on the hill every day and night that our schedules, and the weather, would allow. I loved the fresh air, the starry nights. And as it turned out, I had decent coordination for the sport (as in, I no longer fell all the time).
As a teenager, a few of my friends played on the high-school soccer team, so I tried out. I was terrible, but because they didn’t have a lot of players, they let me join.
At first, the coach was always moving me around the field, saying she hadn’t found the right spot for me just yet. She eventually settled on left forward. I wasn’t fast enough for defence or a centre, but perhaps I had a not-too-bad left kick?
I remember after a big spring tournament, where we played on particularly muddy fields, my teammates picked me up after the game and dropped me good-naturedly into a puddle. I had been the only person on the team not covered head-to-toe in mud. My skills never really improved but I always showed up for practice and games, and made some great friends. I have fond memories of those years.
When it comes to sports and recreation, it’s all about trying different things and seeing what sticks.
When my two kids were small, we put them in a variety of sports. They tried swimming, martial arts, gymnastics, paddling, basketball, soccer, and everything in between.
For my son, hockey was the sport he stayed with, and he played rec league right through to Grade 11. My daughter fell in love with dance and was a member of a competitive team until her Grade 11 year as well. (COVID-19 caused them both to stop a little early.)
Sports offered the obvious health benefits, but it also became a big part of their social lives. They made different groups of friends and had opportunities for tournaments and competitions that took them out of town for fun weekends away. As parents, my husband and I met new people as well. The local sports community is a close-knit one. They are the people you run into at nearby restaurants and grocery stores, and who you might need to call on to help with drives.
In this issue of Our Children, we take a closer look at the pressures of competitive sports and what parents can do to help keep it enjoyable for kids. Check out Ameeta Vohra’s article “For the fun of it” on page 12. On this same theme, Janet Whitman caught up with sprint kayaker Alexa Irvin to get some advice for parents of competitive athletes (“Advice for young athletes, and parents,” page 15). Also, our nutrition columnist Karen Kerr offers up some great food ideas (“The right food for active kids,” page 17).
Fostering a fun and safe environment for kids at all levels of sport is important. With fall activities starting up again for a new season, now is the perfect time for parents to do what they can to make sure most sport memories are good ones.
Lori McKay, Editor