The Olympics are over. I can’t remember a time when I’ve enjoyed watching the games more. My favorite moments were the men’s 10,000 meter race and the women’s water polo match between China and Australia. As always, better than the competition were the stories. Olympians are not just amazing because of their physical feats, but because of the roads that got them there. More so than at any other time I can remember, the most compelling stories seemed to be about women. There was the story of gymnast Gabby Douglas winning two gold medals and all the social media attention given to her hair. There was the story of failed redemption on the part of runner Lolo Jones and the backlash from her teammates over what they believed to be unfair media attention. Not as widely discussed but more monumental were all of the women representing their countries for the first time in Olympic competition. What started out as a sport filler until the begining of football season ended up being a compilation of compelling exhibitions of human spirit and achievement. Watching the Olympics helped me to articulate exactly why I want Ella to be an athlete.
1) Commitment to honing physical skills
There is nothing like watching someone learn. Be it in the classroom, court, field or pool, there is nothing more inspiring than to see that “click” that happens when someone has a breakthrough. With sports however, its more apparent. I want Ella to do things that don’t come easy to her. I want her to sweat, I want her to ache and get frustrated; each will make the “click” all the more sweet.
2) Tasting defeat Losing sucks. It hurts like hell and it’s humbling. I want her to understand that even in the worst loss there are lessons to be learned about herself. I hope and pray that she learns that its easy to be gracious in victory, but how she comports herself in defeat will show her true character. If she’s able to pick herself up, analyze her performance, and redouble her efforts, that’s just a bonus.
3) Putting Lessons learned into play So I’m ashamed to say that I only recently learned the value of math. I was working with my mentees when it came to me. The importance of math is not about learning the values of numbers; It’s about learning to work through problems. Athletes are problem solvers. Great athletes are able to analyze their circumstances and think several steps ahead. Constantly athletes are called to interpret, evaluate and act, all skills that will make Ella an asset both in and out of her athletic endeavors.
4) Shatter gender roles & stereotypes There is nothing more beautiful than watching women compete. I think its because women are taught to be dainty and prim. Sweating is unladylike, as is yelling, or grunting (think women’s tennis) or falling. Seeing women compete to me says, yea I get it, but I’m just not interested in being what you want me to be. I want my daughter to be her own person. Confident enough to accept those aspects of society that fit her make-up, while rejecting those which are obsolete or just not a good fit for her. I may not always like her decisions, but I hope that I’m mature enough to encourage and support her will to make them.
*Plug: This week I saw Beasts of the Southern wild. I loved the movie because it centered around a little black girl. She was dirty, unkempt, and endangered, but she was also, strong, self-sufficient, confident, steel-willed and adorable. See it.
5) Because I want to cheer for her
I’ll support my kid no matter what she does. I plan on attending plays, academic pentathlons, debates and spelling bees, but I’d be lying if I said it’d be the same as a sport. Not because I’m a guy and I like sports, but because I want to jump and hoot and scream for my kid. I want her to know in the most fundamental way that I am with, and in complete support of everything she commits herself to. Who am I fooling? I’d do all of that at a spelling bee.