I hated sports when I was growing up. I just plain hated them. I hated sports because I was not a coordinated kid and could never figure out the moves and skills to do well in sports. I hated sports because the kids who were good at sports sucker-punched me on the field and beat me up in the locker room and called me “faggot” because I couldn’t play well. I hated sports because the coaches and gym teachers yelled at us kids all the time and tried to teach us how to foul players on the other team and hurt them and then step away and pretend we hadn’t done it. For these reasons, I didn’t just dislike sports when I was a kid. I hated them with a vengeance.
This year, my daughter’s playing on a basketball team and my reaction is exactly the opposite. I love watching her play. She’s more coordinated than her father, to be sure, and she enjoys being able to score points. She gets along well with the other members of her team. They’ve lost every game of the season but they smile. Her coaches (a man and a woman, in case you’re curious) are uniformly supportive and positive. They expect a lot of growth from the kids and they work the kids hard, but I’ve never heard them yell or berate during practice or a game. In fact, when in one inter-team clinic the high school boys’ basketball coach was invited in as a guest to share his skills and instead spent a half hour yelling at the girls, my daughter’s coach (the man, in case you’re curious) stood up and asked the coach, “why don’t you make them beg for dog treats while you’re at it?” Through a father’s eyes I’ve seen my kid get hurt from playing so hard — side, ankle, knee, finger, elbow, the whole nine yards. She heals quickly and I’m watching her learn to get back up and keep going. She’s learning to pay attention to what other people are doing, to anticipate what other people will do next, and to act accordingly. She’s learning one heck of a lot.
On the one hand, sports. On the other hand, sports. What’s your experience been with them? Where, in the final instance, do you come down?