Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Starting sports young - very young

This is the kind of article that makes me think – give me a break. Sending a kid to a place like Little Gym because you want something fun to do is one thing. Sending them because you are already trying to train them for a career is ridiculous.

With the exception of a few months of early swim lessons, we haven’t put River in a single paid class or lesson. He is the exception among many of his peers. But I didn’t want to spend the money when he’s perfectly capable of learning and exploring as a baby or a toddler for free. I wanted to have the funds available instead to give him enrichment when he’s a bit older, and the activity is more likely to do him some good.

Perhaps we’ve failed in this realm. River is bright, personable and analytical. But physically, one could legitimately call him a wimp. As his mother, I see it as a positive. He doesn’t take risks, so he never hurts himself. I can trust him fully - whether near a busy road, near steps, or with garden shears – and we’ve never had an injury or an accident to speak of. Has he tried to get out of his crib? No way. He knows better than to let himself fall several feet.

But when we see him around kids his age or younger, we see he’s physically behind. They can scamper up nets while he takes only a few cautious steps. At the Chinese preschool, one child sat on a trike and deftly took a passenger for a ride, while River preferred the push car that toddlers learning to walk choose. A couple of friends have suggested that perhaps we should enroll him in an activity, such as yoga, that develops his physical skills.

One thing I liked about the Chinese preschool is that they give more challenging tasks to kids who are advanced in a certain area (like scissor use for River). And they push them when they are behind their peers. They gave the example of pushing one child to ride a trike and that is definitely where River could use intervention. In fact, they did push him during the one morning he was there and he made more progress on a bike than he’s ever made before.

So, he’s unlikely to make it to the World Cup, as Mark may have dreamed of. He may even be unlikely to make the soccer team. But that’s OK with me. I want him to be healthy, to be physically fit, and to have the confidence to engage in a variety of activities. But I feel that at this age, he should be free to develop and explore at his own pace.

1 comment:

Lainey Wright said...

My instinct is to encourage X in the areas of his obvious interest & not worry too much about so-called "balance." Not everyone is an athlete. Not everyone is a scientist. We can't all be perfectly well-rounded cheerleader, A student, soccer star, concert violinists. On the other hand, I don't especially push him in his areas of interest either. I try to let him explore at his own pace & to whatever degree he chooses.