When your kids are born, it’s tempting to ignore the fact that your family is more competitive in Monopoly than sports and just wistfully imagine having athletically gifted offspring. I know I did. In my case, initial klutziness gave way to a height advantage in my teens, but I wasn’t anyone’s first choice if a tall girl wasn’t needed. When my son was born, I was sure it was all going to be different.
He had inherited my height, and his freakish ability to break neighbors’ second-story windows by hitting a wiffle ball with a bat had to hint at baseball greatness, right? And then there was his surprising natural diving ability discovered during his YMCA swimming lessons at the age of eight. But did he really have enough talent to justify 6 a.m. practices every morning at a diving club 40 minutes away? We ultimately made our decision — yes for PONY League baseball, no for diving. I’ve always wondered if we chose correctly.
I wish we had “The Ultimate Parent Guide to Child & Adolescent Physical Activity: Maintaining Their Physical and Emotional Health” by Michael E. Gossett, Ed.D., back then. This guide is indispensable. Gossett makes the excellent point that most parents don’t know what a progressive, accountable physical education program actually looks like.
I shudder to recall the indignities of gym classes back in the day. I was forced to climb the rope and run a mile, got picked last for the team and let’s not even mention dodgeball (you might be happy to hear that dodgeball and other sports in which children are hit are no longer taught by qualified PE teachers.)
THE COMPONENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL PROGRAM
Today, a good program does more than help your children get physical activity; it should help your child learn to enjoy being active, encourage teamwork and cooperation and build skills. Or, as Gossett quotes from the Society of Health and Physical Educators, to “develop physically literate individuals who have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to enjoy a lifetime of physical activity.”
So where do you start? Gossett outlines how to determine the right activity from preschool right through high school. He takes into account activity levels and interests, and discusses how to find the right club or program. He acknowledges discerning whether your child is interested in activities not found in public schools, such as archery, fencing and, yes, diving, or is talented enough to take school sports to the next level when pursuing gymnastics, travel soccer, cross country, ice hockey and so on. He goes over the pros and cons of going outside of the school system and subsequent measures to maintain accountability.
Gossett also encourages parents to get involved. Physical activity and even sports can be shared by parent and child, or even an entire family. He provides advice for parents of home-schooled kids and what safety guidelines to look for at every age. It’s reassuring advice after all the uncertainty of the pandemic.
I still don’t think I would have pursued diving for my son, but it would have been nice to have Gossett’s reassurance that I made the right decision. Now if only Gossett had advice on getting your 20-something offspring to pursue more physical activity,