Thursday, September 4, 2014

White Boy Can't Jump, But Have You Seen His Backstroke?

Life lessons are everywhere if you just pay attention. I got one in the PE office at school today.

I was speaking to a teacher about scheduling after school tennis. In expressing my son's disappointment at being on the wait list, I began to say, "He's not an athletic kid, and he was really disappointed this didn't work out because he finally had a sport he wanted to play."

The other PE teacher, who was sitting at his desk and not involved in our tennis talk, interrupted me after I got as far as, "He's not an athletic kid...."

He said, "That's not true."

It made me pause.

He was right. And I should know better.

First, my son is only ten years old. His interests and abilities at age ten are hardly determinative of the rest of his life. I shouldn't categorize him.

Second, he is athletic. He is very comfortable in the water and is becoming a decent competitive swimmer. What he is not--thus far--is a team sport guy. He'd rather not run, and he'd prefer a ball not be involved. Soccer, baseball, basketball...all have been tried and discarded long ago.

The reason I should know better is because my son is just like me.

I was not a jock. I hate running. I have no spatial awareness or court vision or whatever it's called. (Please don't throw balls at me.) But I was a fairly decent high school swimmer and the only female golf team member in the entire conference. I also was a pretty solid synchronized swimmer in both high school and college. Snicker all you want, but it requires strength, coordination, grace, teamwork, and excellent lung capacity. In spite of the hair and makeup, it's athletic.

These days, I only dabble at synchronized swimming in my own pool, but I swim laps for exercise. I could swim a 50-yard butterfly when nine months pregnant. (Try and tell me that's not athletic.) I don't play much golf anymore, but I still can hit a 200-yard drive. I lift weights regularly, and I'm strong.

But I don't run. My reaction time is poor. I can't jump. Yet I'm active and, in certain limited arenas, athletic. I am not a couch potato because I don't understand the pick and roll.

My son may become a team sport player someday, but odds are he'll continue to take after me. I hope he'll continue to try new things, but swimming is a natural fit for him. He likely will learn teamwork from building robots instead of throwing a football. It doesn't mean he's not athletic.

I shouldn't categorize him or anyone else. It's my job to teach him that people are more than stereotypes, not to force him into one myself.

Thanks, Coach, for setting me straight.

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