Written By: Leslie Means
I practiced hard that year. Every time I visited my friend’s home, we would immediately head outside to her basketball court. We spent hours back there, dribbling, shooting and doing drills.
It was all in an effort to prepare for the new season of 6th grade basketball.
There was only one small problem. Mom and Dad wouldn’t let me play any sports until 7th grade.
Surely if I practiced enough and showed them my potential they would change their minds and let me have a shot at it.
My childhood friend had it all planned out. She would write a letter to my parents explaining my talents; begging, pleading them to change their minds.
“Don’t let her talents go to waste,” she said.
“My parents will pick her up and even bring her to the games,” she begged.
In the end, it almost worked.
Mom and Dad appreciated my friend’s gesture and thought it was impressive she had put so much thought into this plan to get me on the basketball court. But there was just one problem.
Nothing would change my parents’ minds.
And so I had to wait one more year before I had my chance to shine on the court. Thing is, I didn’t shine. Heck, I hardly had a glimmer. Instead, I became the type of basketball player who enjoyed being on a team, working hard and socializing with the boys after the games.
Yes, I sat the bench.
I had a few parents tell me they thought I could have been a much better player had I started practicing at a younger age.
“You have so much potential,” they would utter. “It’s too bad.”
At the time, I believed them. “If only I had started playing earlier like the rest of my friends,” I thought. “I could have been a star.”
Today, I know that’s not true. 3-4 more years wouldn’t have made me taller or made me have a better average on the free throw line. I just didn’t have it. To be honest, very few of my friends really “had” it either, even though they played years before me.
Those 3-4 years of not competing in sports allowed me to have more weekend camp-outs, long summer bike rides, 4-H outings and nightly swims at our local pool.
My parents’ discipline let me be a kid for just a little bit longer.
As an adult with two little girls of my own, it all makes sense. I now understand the decision my parents made and I’m thankful for it.
But I’m torn.
I’ve been told times have changed drastically in 20 years. Not long ago a mother came up to me and said, “Leslie, Ella’s 4 now. You might want to get her into some type of activity.”
This concept baffles me. I want my girls to have a chance to be little girls, but I don’t want them to miss out, either. Ella already knows.
“Mama, my friend at daycare is in dance class. Why can’t I dance?”
Or, “Watch me jump and run, Mama,” she exclaimed after watching the Olympic Games on television.
“I bet she would be good at gymnastics,” I told Kyle. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to put her in a class.”
Kyle agrees, as I knew he would. After all, he was the kid playing sports at a young age. He thinks it’s something kids should do.
“Our girls’ childhood doesn’t have to be exactly like yours, Les,” he’s said on occasion.
“True,” I respond. “But I’m pretty sure mine was one of the best. It couldn’t hurt.”
In the future I will probably give in. I’ll let my girls play soccer and basketball at a young age if they want. They’ll have a great time and might even become a decent athlete who doesn’t just sit the bench. And I’ll be there, cheering them on every step of the way.
But through all those activities, until the day they leave our home, I’ll be fighting for their chance to be a kid just a bit longer.
What do you think? Should kids be in sports at an early age or do you wait until they are older? Have times changed? Is every kid in an activity at a young age? I seriously have no idea! 🙂 Help!
Read more articles from Leslie online in the Kearney Hub.
P.S. Here I am – High School Basketball Glamour Shot. Complete with red lipstick and a pose just so. Doesn’t this scream die hard b-ball player?