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Finding Our Family's Athletic Niche

alec vanderboom

I am not athletic. I have so many traumatic memories from gym class. There was my elementary gym teacher who split his pants in front of me while demonstrating a gymnastic move, my middle school track captain boyfriend who ran an "under 4 minute mile" and dumped me for my neighbor, my cross-country coach who coached us while high, and finally getting stress shamed in my college yoga class. Gym class sucked. I was left with Fencing and Sailing in college being my only empowering athletic memories. Try to get your kids in a Sailing School in the middle of Landlocked West Virginia! My kids are not at risk for living out their Mother's Olympic Sport fantasies.

Over the past few years, I've watched my kids stink at soccer. Somehow we've landed on a few Championship Teams where the coach really cares about his 6 year old kids winning the Season Trophy. It's miserable. I've been to elementary school soccer games where the intensity around the field from the coaches and the parents beats out the World Cup.

Now we are on Swim Team and its a new world. Maryland is the home of Michael Phillips and Katie Ledecky.  Swimming is an intense sport here. The coaches on my kid's Swim Team have been trained by the coaches in the Olympics. My kids are 7, 9, and 11. They are thriving in this new environment.

On Monday, we had our first Swim Meet. My daughter, Maria, is the shortest kid on the team. She's been 7 for all of two weeks. Last Monday, we weren't even sure she could swim the full length of the 25 meter pool in order to make the team. After one week of practice, she is full of confidence. She can jump off the blocks that are almost higher than her head. It felt so incredible to watch this short girl in her swim cap and swimming goggle calmly get through two races in front of more than 300 people.

I'm so grateful that female athletics is not where it was before Title 9. I was raised before Girls' Soccer Teams. There was a choice between Cheerleading and Track. I'm inspired to get back to the gym (Thank you for the affordable family rates YMCA) and find my sport. It might be dance, it might be Squash. I'm Maria's Mom. That same love of competition and athletic ability is buried inside of me too. I'm excited to erase 12 years of bad public school gym memories to find the real me.