When my kids meet someone new, after the standard exchange of pleasantries, the next inevitable question seems to be, “What sports are you into?”
Then it gets awkward. Because my boys don’t play any team or competitive sports. Shocker, I know.
So, I feel like I need to remind folks: Not all boys play sports.
Mine are probably the exception around our small town. But it still throws me when strangers are surprised or even disappointed when my children admit to having zero team affiliations. They don’t even watch sports on TV or cheer on a favourite team. We might turn on the halftime show of the Super Bowl… might.
My oldest would tell you he skateboards, and writes technology reviews.
My youngest might mention he plays piano, sings in the choir and rocks the French horn in his school band. He’s also a Math Bowl, Spell Bowl and Lego Robotics guy.
Both my boys are proficient swimmers and rock climbers. They’re in good shape and coordinated. It's the competitiveness of kids’ sports that's turned both of them off.
After years of swim lessons when we lived in the Netherlands, which earned them several aquatic accolades, we went to exactly one swim practice once we'd moved to the U.S. when they were 7 and 10. In an hour of swimming lap after lap, with a constant focus on faster! faster! faster!, they decided it wasn’t for them. It wasn’t even close to fun and simply not how they wanted to spend their evenings.
While they’re decent basketball players, they’re intimidated by the high level of play at our school. Even grade 5 team has tryouts and makes cuts. So when you’re nine years old and just an average player, it’s high stakes and high stress. When my kiddos opted out, I couldn’t really blame them.
My boys would rather go to the rock gym with their dad. Or the skate park with their bros. Or ride bikes around the neighbourhood.
Sure, I do lament they’re not building the friendships, enjoying the sense of teamwork and benefiting from the discipline that youth sports would develop. But after my son worked for two years to land an ollie on his skateboard, I see there’s value there, too. Maybe even more value.
Why? Because my son chose a goal, worked his butt off, and now has something to show for it, all on his own. Practicing for 20 minutes at a time in our the driveway, day in and day out, no scheduled practices, no early morning games, no out-of-town matches, no coaching or cheering or MVP awards or even participation trophies. Just my kid and his worn-out shoes for hours and hours., until he landed that ollie. And now he’s teaching others to ollie, and working on bigger tricks.
Don’t get me wrong—I have nothing against organized sports. Heck, I made it to the state championships three times for high school golf, thank you very much.
But I do believe there are other paths, just as meaningful and impactful, as youth sports. Arts, robotics, academic teams, having a lawn-mowing business, babysitting, volunteering. It’s all good stuff.
So let me repeat, having a Y chromosome doesn’t automatically mean you’re into organized athletics. The next time you meet a boy and you’d like to get to know him better, try asking him about his interests or how he spends his time. Stop the assumptions about sports.