Getcha Head in the Game

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I wasn’t there last night, but I guess it was ugly.

Andy’s on a pretty rockin’ basketball team this year (as opposed to last year’s bad news bears) and last night was their first game. Last season Andy didn’t look too shabby down in the key by comparison. But this year, well let’s just say he looked less than stellar out there on the court surrounded by fourth graders who could do a layup with actual finesse. Plus, you could tell his heart was not in it.

We got to talking last night and he revealed to us the root of his “neither her nor there” attitude about team sports involving a ball: The media. He said, according to every TV show and movie he has ever watched, the jocks are always the bad guys. They are the bullies, the meat heads, the rule breakers and tormentors. You know, the guys who flip nerds upside down and flush their heads in toilets. (And since he loves to read and they put him in the gifted program at school, he must be a nerd, right?)  So why should he try to fit in with the jocks?

Am I the only parent so frustrated with how kids are made to feel so pigeon-holed in a clique before their voices have even changed, let alone been heard? Maybe I was naive and unobservant in high school, but I don’t remember strict hierarchical lines being drawn in the lunch room as to who could sit with whom. We were all just still trying to figure out who we were and too stressed out over the SATs to notice anyone else’s journey towards self-discovery. There were no T-Birds and Pink Ladies. There was no designated table for the nerds and the geeks. So why is my son convinced he’s going to school on the set of High School Musical 1?

So taking our cue from Troy and Gabriella, Paul and I had a long heart to heart with him about how he can be good at lots of things, just like Troy Bolton. He can be friends with the “nerds” and still become a great athlete. He was surprised to learn that his own father, his “Lord of the Rings” loving father was a so-call “jock” as well as several uncles and family friends he looks up to and admires.

“The bottom line,” Paul told his first born, “is that life is soooooooooo much easier for boys when they can hold their own in organized sports. Teamwork, discipline, perseverance, physical and emotion toughness. These are crucial life lessons that must be learned and the best way I can think of to teach you these things is through sports. I don’t care if you’re not the star of the team, but you will be a valued contributor.”

So first thing’s first. You want to play good, you gotta look good. Or at least something to that effect crackled through my phone last night when they called to say they’d be home late. They had some shopping to do. You see, at last night’s game, Andy was still in his too short soccer shorts from that afternoon’s soccer game (the last of the season), flat tennis shoes, and the only jersey the coach had for him was an extra small. That combined with his untamed mane and the fact that it’s scientifically proven that tall kids need a bit more time to grow into their coordination….well, it was enough to make 8 minute quarters feel unflinchingly long.

A couple of hours later the duo strolled on home with milkshakes, long, baggy shorts, street-baller looking black high-tops, they even buzzed Andy’s head! (And this is the kid who was convinced he and Samson shared the same angelic prophesy.) And sure enough, clad in his new duds, I detected some definite swagger in his step when he sauntered out the door this morning for school.  History begins today.

So wardrobe was step one. Step two? He has a date with destiny tonight at the gym with Paul. They have a lot to do before his next game.

Thank goodness for dads, right?

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