The Great Spring Sport Controversy


There has been a war going on in my house.

Well, maybe not so much a war, but a major disagreement.

If you ask my 14-year-old son, he would say things are just fine. He’s in perfect alignment with the adolescent that he is and has great clarity on what he wants. But his mother is slightly traumatized at the fact that after being a bit of a couch potato all winter, he has chosen not to play a spring sport.

My son D. is naturally very athletic. He is more athletic than his father and I—and whether it was T-Ball or Babe Ruth, a house hockey league or a travel team, he always played with great passion and sweat. The counselors at his after-school program used to laugh at the fact that every day when I picked him up, his cheeks were hot and pink and his shirt was drenched from the floor hockey or dodge ball game that they were playing.

D. also played hockey as a goalie for a travel team, but after three years of that, at the wise old age of 11, he decided to give it up because “it’s not fun anymore, mom.” How can playing five days a week, private goalie lessons, tournaments up in Canada, and 9-hour-long summer hockey camps not be fun?

Okay, maybe hockey can be a little over the top. Kids who choose to do it love it, but if you don’t love it anymore, you should give it up. Which he did.

Now that he’s a freshman in high school, he has settled on football and tennis as two sports he loves. He plays football for his high school team, but he decided last week not to join the tennis team. When I asked him why, he said, “The boys’ team has 27 kids and no one ever gets cut.”

“They don’t have 27 kids,” I said. “The school only has 380!”

“Wanna bet?” He said, sticking out his hand.

“I’m not going to bet you,” I said, pushing his hand away. “But as a freshman, if no one gets cut, isn’t that an advantage?”

“No,” he said, sticking ear buds in his ears.

D. played for a competitive team at our Y this spring and did very well. So why wouldn’t he play for high school? Doesn’t he know that there’s a direct correlation between the number of activities one does in school and the likelihood one gets into college?

But I forgot. D’s logic is focused on what is happening in the next three days. Conceptualizing what consequences his freshman choices will have on his life is virtually impossible.

I argued with him some. I cajoled. We had the same conversation about 4.6 times. I pointed out all of the wisdom of the way I see the world. I pointed out how kids who play three sports a year are more well rounded (although he thinks basketball is boring so there’s not a lot of hope for him playing a winter sport). I did fall short of bribing (although I thought of offering to buy him a new racquet; that might have put him over the edge. But I resisted. I have to be a grown-up sometimes).

I remember having similar conversations with him about why he didn’t want to try out for All-Stars after baseball season: He would say, “Nah, I’m good. I think I need a break.” And I’d bite my tongue.

The last time we had the tennis conversation, I felt myself getting more and more irritated. He was being so obstinate. His clarity about who he is and what he wants is so annoying. I wanted to shout out, “Don’t you want to distinguish yourself?”

But then I stopped, laughing. I heard a tiny voice in my head answer my question: He is.