Sporting Life | Mark’s Remarks


One thing we’ve always tried to do is be enthusiastic about the interests of our children.

The boys have tried soccer, karate, baseball, basketball, football, and probably something I’m forgetting. For a time, they stuck with every ball sport besides soccer, so there was a season of life in which we went from sport to sport. Just as baseball ended, football began.  Most of the time, we had some overlap. Football practice would begin in the sweltering days of August. At times, practices and games were hectic and unpleasant.

But we enjoyed those days, which ended all too soon. By the time high school rolled around, both boys made decisions to pursue the great American dollar instead of continuing with sports. There were other factors that influenced their decisions, but I won’t go into that right now.

Michelle and I went through a period of mourning when the boys stopped playing sports.  There were many reasons for our sadness. However, after the first few months, we realized there were many benefits and we found ourselves only missing the fun stuff, the camaraderie and the victories. The hot sun, lack of shade, cold bleachers, and dragging whiny sisters to games were things we didn’t miss.

Speaking of those sisters. Well, their exposure to sports was something entirely different. Our oldest daughter played three summers of T-ball until finally telling us she had decided to quit.

Each summer, she’d put on the team shirt and cap, get her hair braided into tomboy-ish pigtails, and put on her Barbie sunglasses and pink and black mitt. She’d get up to bat and strike out after the coach gave her a few extra swings. She would stand in the outfield, resembling a statue, not moving even when the ball came toward her.

More than once, the ball ricocheted off her shoe and popped her in the chin. I had to carry her crumpled body off the field at least twice. We rarely finished a season, and it was a huge relief when she said she didn’t want to play anymore.

Just the other day, I happened to be hooking up a television for her in her teenage bedroom. Tucked neatly on one of her shelves, near the jewelry tree and some other teenage stuff sat the three T-ball trophies. I mentioned them.

“I don’t know why I won them.  I didn’t even do anything in those games. I just stood there,” she admitted.

If only she had been that straightforward at age 5.

Since those days, she’s settled for piano, band, and a nice run at gymnastics. She enjoyed some success with gymnastics, but her shyness prevents her from competitions or any sort of tryouts. So, gymnastics has gone by the wayside.

We are down to piano and band. We can handle that.

Recently, our second son began playing on a YMCA basketball league and we’ve been enjoying those games. It’s like a last hurrah. Some of the guys on the team are old baseball and basketball buddies, so there’s a mixture of deja vu and also some bittersweet feelings as these boys wind up their high school careers.

To add some comedy to our lives, number four has decided to play basketball. Or should I say, try basketball. For awhile, it sounded better than it felt as she faced a fear of the basketball bouncing up and hitting her. I thought I’d be trudging back out onto the field again to retrieve an injured daughter.

This time, it would be a court.

During one game, my wife sat on the bench with the little one planted on her lap. With the fourth kid, you no longer care about what other people think of your parenting, and so I could have cared less. However, I hoped she would at least get in the game.

My wife finally coaxed her onto the court during the break to take some practice shots.  When she came over to sit with me and I watched my daughter happily return to her coach, agreeing to get in the game, I felt triumphant (although I had done nothing). I was proud of my wife and her superior parenting.

“How’d you get her in the game?” I asked, expecting some intellectual, therapeutic-type answer from my counselor wife.

“I told her we weren’t going to make those cookies unless she played today,” was my wife’s response.

Oh well, that works too.

But my daughter stuck with it. Even though her little arms aren’t strong enough to make a basket, we still applaud when she blocks an opponent or gets the ball high enough to brush the net. Watching little girls play basketball at this age is fun. Awhile back, I would have found it monotonous. Now, I smile and laugh when those girls run up and down the court; more like a skip than a run.

Their end-of-the-game cheer cracks me up.

We will keep practicing those shots, but I’m encouraged by her love of dramatics and music. I’m thinking we probably won’t be eeking out three seasons of basketball, but who knows.

Maybe we will try it again next year. With a little more height, stronger arms, and some gumption.

Heck, maybe she can make a basket.

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