My boys have just started playing cricket for a local team who are in need of players. I am filled with apprehension. We have gone down this path before, with cricket and other sports, and failed. My boys don't seem to have inherited the sporty gene. I don't have it either.
So far, the cricket is going well, but the others all started that way too, then slowly deteriorated as my boys realised that they weren't as good as some of the other boys. Footy was a fairly short lived affair in this household.
I don't care about them being good, I just want them to have fun. But there in lies the dilemma: do you need to be good at sport to enjoy it?
I know that the answer to that question is probably no. For adults I think it is definitely a no. But as a child who wasn't good at sport, I always felt like I was letting the team down. I remember when I was about 9 and playing netball. I knew I wasn't as good as the others, and the rhetoric was, it is just fun, we are all just here to have fun, and everyone will get rotated through the positions, everyone will get a turn. But I didn't. I was nearly always Goal Keeper, because that was a position that was mostly sedentary, and needed the least ball skills and running skills. Apart from not having great ball or running skills, my biggest problem was that I was too polite and had a tendency to stand back and let the girl on the other team have the ball. My boys seem to have inherited my politeness, they don't have the killer instinct that comes in handy when playing sport.
On the day of the Netball Grand final, for some reason the coach decided not to give me a turn on the court. I knew that it was this way would give the team the best chance of winning, and I didn't even really want to play. I didn't want to let anyone down, but the message it sent was clear - you are the worst player on the team, and we have a better chance of winning if you don't play.
That stuck with me for a really long time.
In year 11 I took up hockey for the school's bottom team and had fun in sport for the first time. We weren't a good team, but we were the best in the grade, and had a lot of fun.
I don't want to pass my bad experiences with sport on to my boys. I'm not the type of Australian who thinks that sport is everything, but at the same time I can see that it is pretty important to our culture, and that being good at it is rewarding and satisfying.
Amy Chua, the controversial 'Tiger Mother', says that to enjoy something you need to be good at it. A good article on her can be found here. I'm pretty sure Amy Chua wouldn't advocate sport at all, but I can see her point, even if I would hesitate to push my kids that much.
I just want them to have fun, and at the moment that is what they are doing. But if they stop having fun? Should I let them give up? Should I push them harder so that they might have a chance of becoming good, and therefore more likely to enjoy it?