Thursday, February 22, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Let kids make the call to play ball, or not

I once starred for the Buccaneers.

Okay, it was the YMCA Buccaneers in my hometown of Albany, Ga., and I was only 9 years old, but I modestly maintain my prowess as an outstanding athlete.

I can recall a particular defensive play when I broke through the line and snagged the other team's bumbled toss out of the air and ran it back for a touchdown. I distinctly remember other parents patting my father on the back as I casually handed the ball to the referee.

I still have thrills thinking back to such fun times. In fact, my trophy sits proudly in the room of my 9-year-old son.

Despite the fun I had as a child playing sports, parents like me should be careful to allow their children to find their own athletic niche. My parents never pushed me to play because I naturally gravitated toward sports.

However, unlike so many real athletes today, I knew when to call it quits. By middle school, the sheer size and speed of the older boys coupled with screaming coaches made football less than desirable.

And that was okay.

Parents should allow their kids to find a sport that they love regardless of whether they will play in the NFL one day.

For example, my oldest son watched the Olympics when he was very young and decided he wanted to be a gymnast. Initially, I thought this would last a week, so my wife and I took him to a local gym and he excelled.

For 2 1/2 years, he logged three-hour practices nearly every weekday. We traveled to meets around the state and beyond. He placed among the top gymnasts in the Southeast and appeared in a gymnastics magazine.

I started researching colleges and planning to attend the next Olympics.

However, all of this proved to be premature. Our son came home one afternoon after practice and said he did not want to participate any longer. We encouraged him to give it another try, but his heart was no longer into the sport.

He missed just being a kid. He tried flag and tackle football, tennis and basketball, none of which seemed to be his forte.

And that was okay.

My younger son is more aggressive but never liked football. He prefers basketball for now. We will see how far he goes with that sport.

At the end of the day, kids should make their own choices regarding sports. If they choose not to play, that's fine also. The key is to have fun.

Our older son now runs track at his middle school and he won his first two races. We will see how long this lasts, but just in case, I am researching schools with strong academic backgrounds and great track programs.

Keith Berry is a married father of two who lives in the Westchase area.

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