A sport for your child
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - April 15, 2019 - 12:00am

Summer is usually the time of the year when working parents try to figure out what sports their children should get into. The reason is twofold. First, it’s healthy, and could ignite their offspring’s passion for an activity that will serve them all their lives. Secondly, it buys the parents some me time or time to work that school inadvertently fills up. A side benefit is that the child uses up a tremendous amount of his or her energy, and sleeps longer and better. It is the only time of the year that has space for children to learn and achieve a degree of proficiency in something they may truly enjoy. During the school year, it’s hard to get away.

How can you find out what sport your child would be attracted to?

Bear in mind that this is your child’s story, not a continuation of yours. Parents have a tendency to take the path of least resistance, and push their kids into their favorite sport. It may seem that the odds favor this move, but it may not necessarily be the case. If you’re into basketball, for example, your child may or may not want to do what you love, for several reasons. They may not have your skill or physical attributes. They may not want to put in the work. They may not want to walk in your shadow. They may not want to indulge in something that was a rival for your attention. Or perhaps they saw how hard it was for you, or possibly saw you get hurt doing it. And if your hero gets hurt, then it’s doubly intimidating for a small child.

Remember, your child is still developing. They will be torn between what they are capable of, and pleasing you. A five- or six-year old does not have the strength or coordination to perform many sports, and they will be sensitive to your reaction. It was very difficult for me to hold back my desire to see my sons become basketball players. It was a dream that circumstances forced me to personally give up. But I couldn’t, in conscience, impose that on my boys. Inevitably, they would encounter difficulty, and would naturally resent me for it. Instead, I imposed the rule that they must have a sport that challenges them physically. This brings me to my next point.

For now, it is for their enjoyment, not a career. They are still finding their way, just as retired athletes take up other sports and start the learning process over. They are still not sure what they like. For two years, my younger son Daniel loved the challenge of wall climbing. He was adamantly passionate about it. He would not come down if he could not overcome a wall. Then, some time after he turned 11, he moved on, cold turkey. It was a phase. So we searched for the next. They tried swimming, aikido, a little tennis, running. I was buying balls of every description, to keep their attention on sports. Some worked, many didn’t. Come to think of it, even the places we lived had “varsity” and “golf” in their names. If there were a “Hoopsville,” I’m sure we would have moved there at some point.

Corollary to this, you have to let your kids try everything you can get them into. Don’t give up the search. My sons took the long, circuitous route back to basketball. But now, exercise is part of their lives, another reason I will be forever grateful to sports. I know they will live long, healthy lives. But it took a heavy investment, not in money, but in time, effort and most of all, getting to know them. We found out what they enjoyed, supported it, and continue to reap the benefits. Their lives both have sports inextricably linked to them. Somehow, I know they will be okay, now that they are on their own and I rarely see them. Boys will be boys.

Also, make sure they get the right attention. If a basketball camp or martial arts class has too many students, they will not get personalized training. I’ve never liked sports classes that were just disguised mills to make money. Early on, my sons didn’t either, and I’m proud that they were open about it. In conjunction with this, talk to your kids about their experience. They may be getting discouraged or are having a hard time. Explore the experience with them. Find out what’s going on. For all you know, it may be counterproductive. Find the right coaches, those who have patience to teach, who are gentle and encouraging. After all, these are your children we’re talking about.

So where do we begin? Swimming is a good start, because it will not require physical strength, improves cardiovascular endurance and coordination, and is fun. Personally, we’ve experienced the Bert Lozada Swim Schools program; they’ve done a lot to innovate and empower children so they won’t be afraid of the water. But there are others with good programs. If your child leans towards basketball, there is a dizzying number of summer classes. Coach E has the best personalized training for young kids. But find one in your area where the coaches guide your kid and don’t yell at them. There are also several self-defense classes you can introduce your kid into. Low-impact sports like dancesport, golf and cycling will be lifelong friends. Someone always has an old, outgrown golf set or bike somewhere. Find a gym accredited by a national sports association. They are the authorities, after all.

A telltale sign your child likes the sport is that they are excited to go back. They’re easier to wake up in the morning, eat faster, and get ready more quickly. If they drag their feet or show hesitation, then there’s something going on that you should be aware of. What is important is that your child learns, and has fun, and the experience strengthens your relationship with him or her.

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