To Play or Not to Play | Toronto Teacher Mom

To Play or Not to Play

Friday, July 06, 2012

A few years ago, we registered my daughter in soccer and while she was enthusiastic about it at the start, it wasn't long before we were met with reluctance. By the second or third 'game', she became very shy and after the first month, she refused to participate at all. I had no problem with giving up since I am pretty sure I'm not cut out to be a soccer mom, but I did have an issue with my daughter not being able to finish something she had started. In the end, maybe soccer just wasn't her thing.

After a year's hiatus from the organized sport, my husband registered both my kids with a different soccer club. I was hopeful that having my daughter on an all-girls team would encourage her to participate and have more fun this time around. I was wrong.

For the first meet, it was a big struggle to get her dressed and out the door, and an even bigger struggle to get her out of the jeep once we had arrived on site. She panicked and cried the entire way there and made it quite clear she didn't want to play soccer. What's a mom to do? We had already paid the registration fee and she was letting down a team and a coach she hadn't even met yet. It certainly would have been easier to drive the kids back home and request a refund. But I didn't want to give my daughter the wrong idea. I didn't want to her to think it's okay to give up before giving it a fair shot. 

So I dried up her tears and assured her that she didn't have to play that day but that she should at least meet her coach and let him know she didn't feel up to playing that day. We stayed and watched. Or, I watched and my daughter did cartwheels. 

The following week, donned in her bright pink laced soccer cleats, we went under the premise that she didn't have to step on the field but that she should at least join her team. The coach's wife was there to watch her daughter play. She was so kind to introduce herself to me, and her daughter, picking up on her mother's example, introduced herself to my daughter and encouraged her to join this time around. My daughter's face lit up with delight at the prospect of playing with her new friend.

Now my daughter is much less reluctant to play on the team. She has even bumped into fellow teammates in the neighbourhood and is happy to see them week after week. A few days ago, I watched as she played goalie did cartwheels and backbends. Her team was already down 2-0 and surely wasn't happy that she let a ball through because she wasn't paying attention to the game. I yelled out a reminder to keep the eye on the ball but I wasn't expecting other parents to vocalize their discontent with her lack of passion for the game. I was just happy she was even on the field. While her heart may not be in the game, I give her credit for overcoming her fear and for leaving each game with smile.

But tell me this, should I give up on the idea of my daughter becoming a dedicated soccer player if she hasn't yet developed a strong interest in it even though she is barely seven? Do I stand by while some parents, who seemingly value winning over fun, will yell angrily at my child from the sidelines? Or should I encourage her to continue practising her soccer drills and to develop a sense of sportsmanship by giving it her best shot? A big part of me wants to just pat her on the back for putting forth her best effort and let her know it's okay if she wants to pursue something different or nothing at all. I am confident that, regardless of what organized sport she may or may not partake in, she will still grow to be a happy, strong and intelligent young woman.

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  1. Diana,

    You're a great mom, and you have nothing to worry about.

    When I was growing up (many years ago), my parents always encouraged my sister and I to participate in sports.

    However, it was much easier for me because I've always had a deep passion for athletics and have always been competitive by nature. My sister was the opposite. My parents had to persuade her to participate.

    So based on my experiences, I will encourage my children to follow their passions. Whether its the arts, sciences, or athletics.

    For fitness and health reasons, I will take long walks with them in the many beautiful parks that Ontario has to offer.

    At the end of the day, they will learn how to cooperate and collaborate with others within their own interest groups/clubs. Whether it's the chess, soccer, or literature clubs, will be up to them.

  2. This sounds just like my sister when we were young, I loved sports & music from a young age like 4 or 5, my sister, no way but she loved to draw and paint and taking dance, her first class in dance she was totally different, she wanted to go!! As an adult she is a teacher and still into the arts and she hates sports! Maybe your daughter will be the same, especially if she is doing cart wheels, gymnastics maybe? You are a great mom, I know this because I read your articles, so the two of you will figure it out and for now, you paid your fee and the cartwheels are just fine:)

  3. haha At 7? Meh. Most kids were picking grass while playing soccer and softball when I was that age (I was one of them). If she enjoys playing, I say let her keep at it! If she doesn't to, then don't sign her up next season. I would say finish the season no matter what. It does seem important to finish what you've started/not let your team down/etc. If you have less competitive legues (like just-for-fun type legues) in your area, it might be a better fit for her than a more competitive group or one that has championships or something along those lines. :-)

  4. I'm with you about not wanting my kids to give up on something if they've committed themselves to it. But it comes down to knowing your child. If they are intensely unhappy doing it, then that's a call only a parent can make. My son hated piano but I told him he had to finish it until it ended in June and if he didn't want to continue in September, that was his decision. As time went on, he ended up liking it, then doing practice on his own, and now has decided to continue in the fall. Parenting is not a science we can predict, sometimes gut feeling is the key.

    As for the crazy soccer parents out happens.

  5. Ugh. I have no time for those parents who can't relax and let their kids enjoy themselves. This is not the World Cup.

    My rule is - finish what you started. Once you've given it an honest shot then you can decide not to go back next season. That being said, there is no reason a child should be truly suffering through an activity they hate. You can work with her to figure out what is best.

  6. My motto is Have fun and finish what you start


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