Friday, July 10, 2009

Soccer Class for 3-Year-Olds and UFC 100

My 3-year-old took soccer classes this spring. My first reaction: "And so it begins..."

I refuse to be part of the ridiculous obsessive side of youth-sports culture that turns kids (and parents) into mini-Marinoviches.

As you know, this blog is about raising a great sports fan, not raising an all-star athlete. I think part of growing to love sports is developed by playing sports. But for fun.

I want my kid to play organized sports so he can (a) have fun, (b) learn about teamwork and cooperation, (c) be exposed to controlled competition and (d) value physical exercise.

Three years old FELT early to have him in soccer classes, but what's the harm in running around a gym kicking a ball? (It's also the easiest sport to try -- it's too early for, say, hoops.)

He actually enjoyed it. It was just fun little drills that turned the ball into a "pumpkin" or cones into "hats" or the goal into "hungry hippos."

I'm willing to admit it: I slipped up once in a while. I wanted him to have fun... but I wanted him to do well -- to learn skills and get better.

On more than one occasion, I was helicopter parenting. (Not proud of it!) It wasn't out of "You better get that soccer scholarship to UVA, little bastard!"

My thought was that if he got better, he would enjoy it more. And, of course, I was projecting -- just like every other ridiculous "soccer parent" (proxy for "sport parent") out there.

In the end, he had a TON of fun -- he talked about the upcoming class constantly and seemed determined (on his own) to master the skills, eager to please the coaches.

And even though I can talk all I want about having no interest in raising my kid to be a sports star, I learned my first lesson -- and a valuable one -- about putting that into practice.

Now, how does that loop into UFC 100, this weekend's big event in sports -- and arguably the biggest event in the history of MMA?

The other sport you hear about young kids -- say, 3-year-olds -- doing is martial arts. Love it: Balance, coordination, confidence, discipline.

What I'm curious about is how soon these dojos are offering "MMA for Toddlers" -- they already offer MMA for adults (and even some young adults/teens).

The market is there. And you know the parents are following.

Again, I'm not hoping my son will become the next UFC champ. With his (my) genetics, that is an impossibility anyway, if only because I live most of my dorky life in some stage of anxiety, not the least of which for getting my face bashed in.

But is there something wrong with him learning to be badass enough that other kids won't mess with him? (Downside: He and his friends start some sort of YouTubian "backyard brawlin'" league.)

If nothing else, he will have the appreciation for MMA as a spectator sport that I don't have, probably because it wasn't an organized sport when I was growing up, learning my fan habits.

-- Dan

1 comment:

Will Welborn said...

Great post. As a parent of 15,11 year old boys and 5 year old girl I am in all levels of the sports stages.

My 14 year old loves hoops and plays fantasy sports online. My 11 year old is into soccer - the sport I played through college - but will pretty much try anything. And my daughter played her first season of soccer, but always had to have here "socca-ball" ribbon on her ponytail.

But the accomplishment I am most proud of my 14 year old for is getting his blackbelt at age 11. He is a skinny, un-intimidating kid but I can tell he likes when a friend comes over to the house for the first time and sees the black belt hanging around the bedpost.

As far as "sports parents", I am always entertained by the parents who are dropping cash left and right for the 10 year old's "training" because they are looking for that scholarship. I always like to ask what are they going to fall back on when junior turns out to be slow and lacks a verticle...