Thursday, June 14, 2007

Father's Day '07: Our Coverage Continues
What's Wrong With a Cheerleader Outfit?

Reader Kyle McInnis emailed to point me to a post at his blog The Wishbone, inspired by Varsity Dad, about the fatherly advice he has for his newborn daughter about being a sports fan. His No. 1 rule: Support mom and dad's alma mater until you're in college.

Hmm... I think that sounds reasonable. If you manipulate your kid ("manipulate" used lovingly, of course) into being a fan of your team, they will likely keep the faith at least through college.

Wait: Alma mater? But what if neither parent WENT to the school rooting interest of choice? My wife grew up in Gainesville, which is why she's a Gators fan. I met my wife, which is why I'm a Gators fan.

Shouldn't it be "Support mom and dad's favorite team?" Wow: When you put it like that, perhaps the kid's allegiance will be more tenuous, much to the dismay of the parents, I'm quite certain. (Will Gabe be confused if I say: "Let's root for Florida! But let's ALSO root for Northwestern!" It's a good thing there's a clear difference between the two on the football field and hoops court.)

Anyway, McInnis has four other rules, and he brings up an interesting point: Would a good Varsity Parent raise their kid to be a sports fan differently depending on whether they were a boy or a girl? (If Gabe had turned out to be a girl, I would have still launched this blog with the same mission.)

Here at Varsity Dad, I've always espoused a "gender-neutral" approach: I want to develop and explore lessons, tactics and experiences that can work no matter if you're raising a boy or a girl -- and no matter if you're a Varsity Dad or Varsity Mom, for that matter.

For example, McInnis' rule No. 4 will be contentious: "You may wear a cheerleader outfit at any time."

Hold on: Why box your daughter into a "cheerleader" (girl) vs. "athlete" (boy) construct? Why not let her wear a football jersey -- or, perhaps a little more realistically, a piece of apparel supporting one of the school's women's teams? For that matter, if your son wanted to be a cheerleader, I would hope you wouldn't object.

As you can see, here's what I like best about his post: It's a phenomenal conversation-starter. Not just about tips or advice for raising a sports fan (which is at the core of this blog's mission), but how -- if at all -- that changes when you're raising a son versus a daughter.

I hope this sparks some interesting conversations. As comments are moderated, I'll keep a close eye on them and have them posted as close to real time as possible.

-- D.S.


Kyle McInnis said...

I can understand your issues with the post. My daughter is, however, MY daughter and she should root for the Dawgs because both her parents went there. The question becomes more complicated without that connection. I suppose my point is to teach loyalty, that you stick with your team through good times and bad (Jacksonville). I think that logic holds up just as well if mom and dad pick a school to cheer for just as well as if they went there. But, I am against periodically switching schools or teams because of poor performance. Make a choice and stick with it. Losing isn't fun, but it is no reason to jump ship.

As for the cheerleader outfit, I guess I exposed some of my own gender bias. If she wants to wear a gymnastics outfit or a football outfit or any other type of Georgia outfit, I'm for it, in any setting. I must admit though that I have never seen a little girl in shoulderpads and a helmet. Then again, I've only been a parent for six weeks.

Tom said...

It almost certainly depends on your alma mater. I think parents who attended major NCAA players (Buckeyes, Gators, etc) or local colleges with local fanatic rivalries (Boston University/Boston College) have an obligation to root for their own alma mater, and, subsequently, raise their children to follow the same school.

If, however, the parents attended a rinky-dink non-competitive school (Wheelock? Wellesley?) or a big school with limited (or no) dominant sports (what does John Hopkins have going for it besides lacrosse? BU students are free to pick any football team they want to root for) you've got a little more leeway.

In the second case the parent should only guide their progeny toward a specific school, but should not force it upon them.

But, I agree, once the kid reaches college all bets are off. They want to root for Duke, there's nothing you can do about it - (just re-read Varsity Dad archives trying to discover your mistake and start again from scratch).


coach said...

I believe more in teaching kids to be a fan of the sport, than a fan of a particular team. Both are sort of a natural progression. The child will grow to care about a particular team for a million different reasons. As a parent, it's much harder to ensure that they pick the one we want. However, it is not that hard to pass on the passion and love for the game. As kids, I was a Michigan State fan and my brother liked Michigan. He went to MSU and I went to UM (Dearborn campus). Things change.

As far as gender, I don't think a parent should necessarily limit their child, but I do think it is in their best interests to be directed toward things they will be more likely to be able to do longer. Our girls won't play football. Luckily for us, so far they seem more interested in being cheerleaders in a few years. They do play baseball and soccer though, and have done gymnastics, etc.

My wife and I live sport though, (not in the obsessive crazy way) and that is our example to them. We volunteer as coaches and doing other jobs in the clubs and leagues, and they learn to love it because they see us love it.

Mike The Elder said...

You definitely bring up some interesting points.

As far as the cheerleader outfit is concerned, I'm not a huge fan of it regardless of gender. I would like to believe that if I had children who chose that path that I would support them regardless of gender.

As far as supporting your alumni. I'm not a big college sports guy. I went to Western Illinois, which has some good solid programs, but in my four years there never struck me as a huge sports school. We are a D1-AA football program and D1-A for everything else. The point I was trying to get at through this rambling is that I don't think I would be too offended if my children didn't grow up cheering for the Leathernecks. Also, since it's highly unlikely that they would end up rooting for one our rivals such as Western Kentucky or Northern Iowa pretty much any college that they choose to root for would be ok with me.