My daughter likes to play tennis.
My daughter likes to play softball.
My daughter likes to play lacrosse.
My daughter likes to fence.
My daughter likes gymnastics.
My daughter likes to play football.
My daughter likes to play soccer.
You get the picture: My 9-year-old is loving all kinds of sports, and I’m loving that she’s so into them. I grew up in a family that emphasized reading and academics, and never played a sport myself. As a parent, I’ve exposed Sabrina to plenty of them. And now the challenge is, she can’t pick just one!
She’s young, so she doesn’t have to — this is a time to experiment. But by the time she’s 10 or 11, I’d like to see her immersed in one or maybe two kinds. “Jack of all trades, master of none,” goes the saying, and I think that very much applies to sports. Being part of a team, mastering the moves, scoring wins, getting past disappointments — they’re all part of growing a girl’s abilities, confidence, and social skills, and helping her appreciate how good a strong, fit body feels. Research has found a direct link between a girl’s level of physical activity and her self-esteem.
I see the effect when Sabrina comes home from playing, face flushed and eyes shining, buzzing on adrenaline. “Mommy, did you see me catch that ball?” she’ll ask excitedly. “Mommy, I am better than the big kids!” she’ll gloat.
As part of my master plan to ultimately help Sabrina choose one sport, I recently showed her this video of 13-year-old whiz skateboarder Alana; it’s part of the Citizen Kid campaign, which is all about encouraging kids’ passions to bloom. Alana won gold at the X Games at age 12, scoring a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Sabrina watched Alana zoom around on her wheels in awe. And then, as expected, she said, “That’s cool! Can I try it?”
So I said sure, she could. Then I asked, “What do you think that video tells you about being really good at skateboarding?”
“It takes a lot of practice!”
Bingo. So we talked a little bit about how, to be good in any sport, you have to spend time getting the technique right.
“And when you’re little you can try stuff out but then you pick one,” she said. Wow! Our conversations had sunk in. “I think I’ll want to play softball or lacrosse. But I can always do dancing, too, right?”
“Yes, you can always do dancing, and also do other sports some of the time with friends or me and Daddy!” I promised. Then I asked, “And why do you think it’s good to do sports?”
“Because it gives you confidence!” she said, and I beamed because she knew it.