When It’s Okay to Push Your Kids to Play Sports

“I’m not going to football today…actually, I’m not going to football anymore. I quit!”

My husband and I sat stunned as we listened to our twelve-year-old rant, rave, and rebel against the instruction to get himself ready for practice.

It took us a few minutes to formulate the response we wanted. I’m sure as our brains were constructing something useful, we were concurrently saying things like, “You are going to practice,” and “do you really want to be seen as a quitter?”, and “You would give up? What kind of work ethic do you have?” and “of course you’re sore, your body is trying to use and make muscles it has never had before. The soreness will go away,” and we probably even said, “we paid for your non-refundable registration, and you are going to work that money off to pay us back, actually, no, you should just lose the privilege of your phone and ipod for the duration of the football season…they are privileges you know?”

This was a desperate situation. After flailing for the statement that would change his mind and send him quickly upstairs to gather his things, we pinned him into the kitchen. It took some fits and starts, but this is the essence of what my husband and I finally said to him:

“There are always consequences for decisions, and in this case, there will be consequences at home for quitting.”

“But I don’t like football,” he argued, “I am sore, it is hard, and…I just don’t like it.”

“How do you even know?” we asked, “you’ve never played football before this year, and you’ve been to three practices! So, you’re telling us that if you go to your first few days at a new job, and you aren’t sure you like it, that you are going to walk away without consequence? Employers don’t like to see on your resume that you are only willing to work a few days at a time? The real world doesn’t work that way. Sometimes you have to push through with a little elbow grease, and in this case, you asked to sign up, and we expect that you will follow through with your commitment.”

He stormed out…he went upstairs. I thought he was up there sulking, but my husband knew better. He was upstairs getting his brand new cleats on to head to practice.

That was two weeks ago…

Last night, as he worked to stay up a little later to watch the opening game of the NFL season, we saw a new version of the brand new junior-high-kid who occupies his room.

“So today, when I was playing center…” he paused.

I looked up from what I was doing, “Center? What in the world were you doing playing center?”

He smiled back at me, “I know, right? No one else wanted to do it, so I told coach I’d do it.”

I could hardly picture my 85-pound twig lining up against boys who outweigh him by 40, 60, and in one case over 100 pounds.

He went on to show me his center stance, to explain to me the position he’ll likely play as he pointed out the guys on the Cowboys. (for the record, he’ll likely be a wide receiver)

I asked him, “So, is this your only year of football?”

“Nah, probably not,” he replied, “It’s making me stronger.”

I can’t tell you how awesome it was to hear him say that.

What if we had let him quit? What if we hadn’t pushed him to go to practice that day?

A few things would be different. He wouldn’t be coming home from school excited about eating lunch with his “football buddies.” He wouldn’t be noticing the start of muscle bulge in places he didn’t even know he had muscles. He wouldn’t be talking about the things he’s learning about football…about himself.

That’s honestly all we wanted. We never even suggested that he play football, in fact, I did what I could to discourage him before he signed himself up. It’s possible he will spend more time on the sideline cheering on his more well-versed football teammates than running patterns, but I don’t regret for one second pushing him into this football experience.

It was never about making him a football player. It was about making him accountable. It was about helping him to see that work is sometimes just that…work.

Now, if he came to us tomorrow and said, “I don’t want to play hockey this year,” I can guarantee our response would be different.  He has been playing since he was four, and he would know full well what it was he was quitting. As long as it is before his commitment to a team, we’ll never force him to play something he has given a full effort to try.

However, if a similar conversation comes up again about any sport pre-registration, I will say, “If you’re not going to play that sport, then what sport are you going to play?” Inactivity is not an option, choosing which sport gets them moving…that’s up to them.

We have all learned something over the last few weeks. One thing I hope all my kids now know… if there has been a decision to commit to a certain sport for a season…the expectation is that mom and dad will do anything they need to do to push those legs into motion.

To learn more about Meagan’s book project, Choosing to Grow: For the Sport of It, visit her website www.meaganfrank.com.



Copyright 2012               Meagan Frank                                Choosing to Grow

Categories: Uncategorized

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