My son started basketball this winter. He loves sports. He always has since he was a little boy. I remember him sleeping with hockey sticks and baseballs like they were stuffed animals. He started tee ball when he was three and loved it. He's been doing Tae Kwon Do for three years as well.
The truth is, comparatively speaking, he's not the most athletic boy. He's only 7, but some boys his age are throwing and catching and shooting baskets like they've been doing it since they could walk. These boys have that natural athletic ability that my son just doesn't have.
Not that he couldn't be a good athlete. I firmly believe that if he practices and works hard at it he could catch up to those boys that have that natural athletic ability. He's proven that he can be a good athlete with hard work. He has a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do and I fully expect him to be a black belt and 2 or 3 years.
(Incidently, that's all I care about when it comes to my children and sports. I just want them to try their best and work hard. Otherwise, what's the point.)
As the basketball season began this past November, it was clear that he was going to need some practice. He received a net for Christmas and we've had some decent weather these last few weeks that got him out shooting baskets. He was working hard enough at it but there was something missing from his game.
Aggression. He just wasn't aggressive enough on the court. He would stand to the side of the net and let the other team have it and watching the other kids make baskets. We began telling my son that he needed to be more aggressive when playing basketball.
A trait that at age 7 is required to be successful at sports, right? Really? Should we really be pushing our sons to be aggressive? What does aggressive mean anyway? The definition is "ready or likely to attack or confront." Really? I'm telling my kid to attack the other kids on the court?
He's a really sweet kid. Tae Kwon Do has taught him discipline and self restraint. Now we were telling him to forcefully go after the ball. I've told him all his short life to be kind to others and now I was telling him to be pushy and assertive.
As I watched my son stand to the side of the basket and as I yelled for him to get into the game and "be aggressive" I began to wonder if it was okay for him to not be aggressive. Maybe there was another way for him to be successful at sports. Or even (gasp) not to be successful at every sport. Or even be an athlete at all! He can be anything. Just like I tell my softball-obsessed daughter that she could be anything including an athlete.
He'll be fine. Basketball player or not. But I'm done sending him the message that his value is based on whether or not he is a good athlete or that he has to be aggressive to be a boy. Or, like any good parent (or young athlete), I'll try my best.