Thursday, March 1, 2012

Self Confidence

We are a family of nerds. My husband and EM tend to lean a little more towards the geek side most of the time, but I would say JT and I are pretty firmly placed in the nerd camp. If you are unsure where you fall on the nerd/geek/dweeb spectrum, here's a handy Venn diagram to help you out. The bottom line is...nerds and sports typically don't mix.

When we first began schooling at home using a cyber-charter school, I decided we should find a way to incorporate organized physical activity into the lives of the boys. They have both always been very active in general; few moments go by when one or both of them aren't pacing, bouncing, tapping or doing acrobatic moves on furniture. They both play outside whenever the weather is cooperating. Neither is overweight and neither could be classified as lazy. But fearing the dreaded accusation of lack of socialization too often thrown at homeschoolers, I thought signing up for a sport might be a good idea.

We heard about the Upward Basketball program from a friend. It is a church-based program that encourages teamwork, good sportsmanship, and Christ-like behavior in all of their players, parents, referees, and coaches. We liked the fact that they would only have one hour of practice and one game per week. This was a big plus for us. I would see so many friends having to run ragged trying to make it to multiple practices and games for their children every week. I didn't want that kind of stress added to our lives. We signed JT up that first year and have loved the experience for the four years he has been participating. EM signed on the second year when he was five years old.

The first year, JT struggled to keep track of what he was doing in the game. He is a kid with a lot on his mind. This often means he's not in the 'now' all the time. Basketball really requires you to be paying attention. Our second year things started to improve. JT had a coach that worked the kids hard. He helped JT to understand how the game worked. JT realized that sports had a scientific aspect to them. He found that if he knew that a player on the other team tended to run to his left every time, he could dribble on his right side and be more likely to keep the ball from being taken. More and more, I saw my absent-minded boy fully focused on what his body needed to do in the here and now.

Part way through the season last year, I suddenly realized that both of the boys were really becoming excellent basketball players. It was a complete shock to me! How could the children of nerds turn out to be athletic?! My husband and I were discussing this amazing development recently. We came to the conclusion that if they had played on a typical public school team, they would never have turned out the way they did. One of the great things about Upward is that ALL of the players play an equal amount of time in EVERY game...even the kids that would be bench-warmers on any other team. The coaches put those kids out on the floor and then they encourage their team mates to get the ball to them so they can try. One little boy on EM's team could not dribble at all in the first game this season. He would get the ball and take a step or two before he would pass it. Last week at the game, he made a basket and EVERYONE cheered...coaches, team mates, opposing team members. It was a wonderful moment.

My boys have learned self-confidence they couldn't have found sitting on a bench on a typical team. We never would have known what excellent players they are. They would have grown up thinking they were not athletes, just nerds like their parents.

Now they know they can be both.

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