Monday, July 16, 2012

Encouraging a Love of Sports

Upon inspection, the activities I wish for my children as they grow are heavily weighted towards a love of reading, learning, and creating.  It’s not surprising, considering those are the things I enjoy; for me, nothing promises more entertainment than a newly acquired book.  I would argue for hours that literary and artistic pursuits are vital to our children’s development into intelligent, thoughtful, empathetic individuals.   

And I would be right.  (Don’t argue with me…)

But I would also be missing half the boat.  The athletic half. 

The empowerment and confidence children can gain from immersion into sports is at least as beneficial as my beloved book-learning, but with added health benefits.  They’ll also learn resilience, self-reliance, and teamwork.  It’s with some chagrin that I admit strong bodies as well as strong brains should be what we wish for our kids.  Thankfully, our children are usually surrounded by athletic opportunities and are born hardwired for fun. 

With the summer Olympics approaching, I’ve finally been talking with my daughters about sports more encouragingly.  My non-sporty self is lucky enough to count on my husband’s athletic enthusiasm and know-how as we talk up the summer games.  Here are some ways we’ll be trying to introduce a love of sports to our children, courtesy of London:

Plan a party

It might not be for the opening ceremony, but at some point during the games, we’ll throw an Olympics party.  We’ll choose a sport that our kids seem excited about, consult the schedule, and party while we watch the event unfold.  There’ll be snacks and waving flags and gold medal favors.  We’ll do a little bit of research about who our favorite athletes are, and cheer them on as they race to the finish. 

Attend a camp

Local schools and gyms are busy during the summertime hosting day-camps for little ones.  Volleyball, tennis, soccer, swimming – we’ll be contacting schools and coaches to find out if any groups are holding day-camps at which we could let our kids dabble.  Being surrounded by other rookies as well as ever-impressive high-school camp leaders might be just what our kids need to find their love of sports. 

Count Medals

Each night, we’ll check on our favorite country’s medal count.  As the sports change and shift, we’ll share the job of tallying golds and silvers and guess which country will have the most at the games’ end.  Our kids will begin to see that sports are beloved and valued around the whole world, which will hopefully lead them to be more interested in athletics.  And a little bit of summertime math never hurt anybody. 

Go Play

When interest is high after watching a round of Olympic soccer or basketball, we’ll try to head out and play as a family.  My own daughters are of the impression that sports are impossibly difficult and confusing, so we’ll be aiming for fun, rather than perfection.  There will be minor references to rules, but mostly we’ll be encouraging simple play.  The drama of competition can come later, when the kids are more confident with their ability to keep up.  Plus, seeing mom and dad – those people who know nothing – do sports, might increase our kids’ I-can-do-it-too factor. 

Yes, we already love the library and the ballet studio, but we might also come to love the tennis courts or the diving pool.   Letting our kids experience the summer Olympics could be just what we need to set them on a lifelong path of sportiness. 

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