Thursday, February 19, 2009

Good Sports

Confession time: I have amblyopia (the funny brain defect with a goofy name). You know, that condition Linus Van Pelt had where he had to wear an eye-patch. It's not an eye thing, though; structurally, the eye is fine.

It's the brain that's wonky.

You'd never know to look at me that my vision was not perfect. (And, in fact, my vision is excellent, except for lacking certain data about distances.) So my father could be forgiven for considering me clumsy, since I used to walk into walls all the time. And certainly, when childhood games moved out of the wrestling/grappling territory and into things with fast-moving small objects, it's understandable that I wouldn't be favored for teams, nor would I for the most part tend to enjoy it much.

And it's understandable that I might have an idea that, maybe, I'm not that athletic, though I did fairly well in archery and the sport seemed to improve my vision somewhat.

Once I had vehicular freedom--critical for here in the "Southland", since nothing is near anything else--I followed a girl into a martial arts studio. And with a great deal of work (martial arts is not something I was a natural at) and applying my strengths (the ability and willingness to apply tactics even if not comfortable or natural for me, since nothing was comfortable or natural at first), I managed to become a fair competitor and ultimately get my blackbelt. Somewhat ironically, I also picked up my sense of team dynamic (something "team sports" in school was supposed to achieve, somehow, and never did).

So, was I (am I) athletic? The martial arts worked for me because they aren't, in the final analysis, visual. They're tactile. With a fair assessment of distance, you're only concerned with angle and level of attack. Once you close in, your eyes are useless; you have to go by feel.

But if I wanted to go play basketball, I'd have a hard time. Even with a lot of practice, I'd be a drag even in a relatively casual situation. (I mention this because there are local "mom's leagues" which are relatively low-entry, but not really "dad's leagues".) Baseball would be even worse. Tackle football would be okay--I could be a lineman once I trained myself not to kick people who were charging at me--but that's not very common.

I mention this because The Boy is in a similar situation. His vision is just fine, but during the years when most kids were learning to play ball, he had no energy. Now that he feels much better, the fact that he's strong and fast and agile doesn't change the fact that he's not very adept at team sports. (I'm pretty sure he wouldn't even try now.) At his age, the die is cast: The boys who play those sorts of sports are very good at them, and dreaming of scholarships and lucrative contracts.

So he swims and lifts weights and shoots which only require him to improve himself and he'll have plenty of outlets for his athleticism (oh, he fences, too), but the window for those big-time sports is fairly closed. (And he won't be interested in them for some time, if ever.)

Of course, the importance of this is questionable. It's not like I was expecting him to be a baseball/football/basketball star and to support me in a lavish lifestyle. (No, I expect him to be a financial/business genius and support me in a lavish lifestyle from that.) I found a niche, and he will, too, probably in the martial arts (he likes boxing).

As a parent, though, I hate to see a door closed for what seems to be an arbitrary reason: He could certainly play any of those sports, except for the intense demands that require those sports to be performed at a particular level beyond a certain age.

It's one reason I'm happy to see the the Flower engaging in those sports (well, not football, which I think they discourage boys from playing, these days) and encouraging her to work outside of her comfort zone. It's a light touch: She's suspicious of parental praise and resistant to practicing.

But with luck, she'll be able to comfortably play these games for the rest of her life.


  1. Hey, martial arts guys are hot! :)

    And The Boy is into fencing? Cool!

  2. Sounds like both of them will be set. Basketball is a sport you can play pretty much for life, but so are swimming, martial arts, and fencing. That's great!

    My husband's family is very football talented, so we've had many discussions about whether or not to introduce our sons to it later on. My concern with football is that it takes up a huge amount of time and once school is over, football is over. You really can't play that sport well into adulthood. Adult fitness is a big concern, so I prefer sports that a person can participate in for a lifetime.

    And, of course, there are the injuries. My husband has two blown out knees to show for his football days. (Could he have gotten them anyway while playing something else? Sure. But who knows whether or not he would have.) And if they do play in college, wow, the politics that go into that!

  3. Freeman: Just the politics/effort involved in little league football with my son was enormous. 2 hour practices every day after day when it was over 95 degrees outside! It was fun, sure, and he was in great shape during that, but yeah, football would be near my last choice for him looking back.

    He's into tennis now...loves it and stays very fit playing it. No worried mom in the stands either! :) I would love basketball as well.

    And Blake, I should have said, like Freeman, that it sounds like you've done well with your kids as far as sports go! Healthy and happy!

  4. I think politics are more of a problem in football than any other sport because it is entirely team dependent. The individual stats mean much less in football because so much falls on whether or not other people are doing their jobs. For example, a QB, no matter how great he is, isn't going to have many completed passes if his receivers are no good. People end up looking at players subjectively and taking sides. It's not pretty.

  5. And tennis! That's a great sport too. You can play that forever.

  6. Somewhat ironically, I think the martial arts have the lowest incidence of actual injury. Not based on any stat, just on what I observed. I never once saw (or had) a serious injury.

    Well, except for the one time I broke this guy's leg, but that was an exception.

    Politics was bad in the martial arts when I was involved, but not in my school. It mostly showed up at tournaments.

    The worst politics I've ever seen though was in a Little League division for the mentally handicapped. Baseball in general seems to attract awful stuff.

  7. I'm really hoping that all of my kids get into martial arts. That's a sport that will keep you fit until the day you die, and it covers so many aspects of fitness (functional strength, flexibility, endurance). Plus, there's the focus on self discipline. Martial arts would be my first choice if I were the one picking what sport my kids would like best.

    Time will tell...

  8. For the most part, the kids dictate their own educational programs, but there are certain things that must be learned, like math or grammar.

    My feeling is that the girls must, absolutely, be trained in self-defense. Not optional.

    They don't have to like it (though they typically do) and they don't have to do it after achieving some proficiency, but they must get that far.

  9. Think golf. That is something the boy could enjoy. Doesn't take much teamwork and you can play at your own skill level. And if you haven't played you guys could learn to play at the same time. I never played until I was 30 and am pretty bad. But with practice I became tolerable. It's fun and a great day out in the sun.


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