Our girl has made her first foray into the world of organized sports.
Yes. They have soccer teams for kids under the age of three.
There has been a lot said about starting kids too young in organized sports - they say that kids need unstructured time to run and jump while using their imagination and developing their ideas about social constructs. As an educator and at the very core, an advocate for the interests of children, I completely understand where people are coming from in this regard.
But...as with anything in life, there is no black and white answer, no overarching rule that applies to everyone, nor is there a one-size-fits-all approach.
We put Natalie in soccer because NATALIE wants to play. She has lived her entire three years on this Earth going to basketball games, volleyball matches and watching endless hours of sports on the television. She has wanted so badly to suit up in a uniform, put her hair in a ponytail and PLAY on on a team...just like the big girls she idolizes every Monday and Thursday night at Craig's basketball games.
Of course there are opportunities for girls to receive scholarships for athletics, but that cannot be the main reason we as parents enter our daughters into sports. There are so many valuable lessons that can be learned on the volleyball or basketball court, soccer pitch, or softball field. Natalie is learning about having fun, taking turns and working towards a goal...literally and figuratively.
As coaches and lifelong athletes, Craig and I would obviously be thrilled if Natalie's passion and joy in life has something to do with sports, but we aren't placing all our eggs in that basket right now. We're following her lead - she asked for a team shirt and expressed the desire to play some sort of sport.
And goodness gracious...she absolutely LOVES it. Nothing makes my heart happier than seeing the pride she has after scoring a goal and the determination on her face when someone else has the ball.
And then what did we hear the whole way home?
"I a soccer player. I a BIG girl."