When she started the season, she hadn’t played a single game of basketball, not to mention she was scared out of her mind the first time she touched the ball in her first game. Each game she got a little better. Gained a little confidence.
Every week we worked at home on the the things she wanted extra help in. Free throws. Dribbling. Jumpshots. Being aggressive and winning balls. She was ready and willing to learn and I loved getting some extra time with her playing a sport I really enjoy.
We saw improvement with every single game and before long she got more playing time simply because she knew how to play defense – which at this level is rare.
She started tournament play last week and I’m not sure who was more surprised, her or us, when coach had her starting the game. First play of the game she dribbled down the court and made her jumpshot. That was a confidence builder! Her team played in the championship game Friday night against a team who had already beat them (by a lot) in the regular season.
She started that game and she played two entire quarters without a rest. She was exhausted and she played her heart out. In a nail biter of a game, they lost by three points. It was a hard loss and she instantly looked to blame herself for a number of things she could’ve done better. I poured out my wisdom and shared rule #57 of team sports – a game is not won or lost in a single moment (of missing of shot or otherwise) – it’s won or lost in 4 quarters of playing. And they played a great 4 quarters, they just came up short and that is often the story of sports.
She’s not experienced a team sport before and I’ve come to realize how much you learn in that process. I was a little unsure as to how this experience was going to shake out and I can’t believe how amazing it has been for her. She has gained friends. She has gained confidence and aggressiveness. She had a great season and I’m pretty sure she’ll try out again next year.
In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that we don’t start our kids in sports until they’re 8 years old, which is 2nd grade. Every time I mention that idea either on the blog or in person to friends or acquaintances, I always get some questions. This is not a philosophy I try and push on anybody else because it is quite personal, but for us it was very deliberate.
Steve and I are both very interested in sports – we both competed in a number of sports, so this is not a lack of being athletic or understanding sports. But when Hallie was young and all of her friends started sports, it didn’t feel like the right time for her or for us. What I found interesting was the number of parents complaining about the sports their kids were participating in. They complained of the evening practice, the Saturday games, having to entertain younger siblings in the process – they complained of the rush and the busyness.
As I observed others participation in sports with young kids, I realized we could probably give our kids a similar experience in our backyard without having to participate in organized sports. Although Steve would have been fine starting kids in sports a little younger, he was supportive of waiting a little longer.
Our family backyard games began. Sometimes it was Steve throwing the ball with Hunter. Sometimes it was shooting baskets with Hallie. Sometimes it was coach pitch baseball or 2 vs 2 soccer. It was unstructured, not to mention it was flexible, free and fun. But it was deliberate.
As Hunter got older – his experience in the backyard was valuable and before long we had parents asking why Hunter couldn’t be on their son’s teams – they would take him and bring him home. But I felt good about our decision and even with someone taking him and bringing him home – he would be gone at dinner and again on Saturdays. Don’t get me wrong – I’m okay with this…eventually. I get sports are consuming and it takes hard work and effort to truly improve – all of which I’m okay with. But for me the benefit the young kids may or may not get from an organized sport does not outweigh the cost.
We’ve found that by introducing and playing sports with them at home they are not behind or unable to keep up with their peers who may have been playing for several years at that point. Like I said before – its a personal decision. I love being home. I love unstructured play time for my kids and they enjoy it. It’s a decision that works for our family and for what we value most. Could that change down the road? Absolutely. My philosophy is it works until it doesn’t!