Can I have a New Pair of Sneakers?

Player for Keeps
Player for Keeps

These soccer sneakers took my son through his entire year of Physical Education in 4th grade, the indoor soccer season and then tennis camp. His feet didn't grow the entire year and I worried. I worried because he didn't grow and every mother finds a reason to worry about her children, and I worried because I knew he wanted a new pair of sneakers. But we actually had no reason to buy a pair. My son has always been very athletic and he has many sneakers but that year, those were his favorites. He wore them whenever he could - and he had uniform shoes.

I know that each year has its own challenges and transitions but that year he learned that it's ok to be competitive, in fact, for him it feels right. He was the fastest boy on his team and in his class and that mattered to him. Suddenly, competition was his internal motivator. It's not just winning, it's being in the game. I tell him he's like a dog chasing a ball. He's just got to get it sometimes. It matters that much. His internal push doesn't have an "off switch". That year he understood he could feel great about winning and angry about losing. He put it well: "If you don't feel bad when you lose, then why train so hard?" That's a lot for a young boy to learn. But so are those hours of practice. I still have to yell at him to find the hamper but never to get ready for practice. He always knows where his tennis racquet is, and when the newest shoes come out he wants to try them on. That's the year he learned to compete and care about the outcome. His sneakers were worn through and the rubber at the bottom was gone in patches by Summer's end, but he had grown up into an athlete that year and we got him the coolest new shoes.

Now my daughter has learned to compete in sports. She's 14 and has just begun high school. New school, new school mates, new teachers, new everything. We encouraged her to try a sport and she chose cross-country running. Her first run was a big event. She made the run but she threw up and was so dizzy she almost fainted. But she didn't back away. She practiced every day with the team and she completed her next race and she was strong. At the championships, she came in 7th place. This is from a girl who competes in academics and has now learned to apply that same level of intensity to sports. This is now a girl who runs during the week, by choice, plays tennis on the weekends but still competes to stay at the top of her class academically. And now she shops for "gear" too.

Sports can bring us so much - teamwork, achievement, friendships and pride. The commitment my children have each given to their sports has helped them become stronger members of their communities and stronger individuals.

Now I can watch them run through life as balanced and healthy individuals with life-long sports to enjoy and friends to share these with. I also know this is the beginning of more to come. When they wear their sneakers now, they feel a bit taller. They've each achieved success. Their own measurement of it. From the beginning to somewhere is everything.

I just got myself a pair of sneakers, I wonder what will happen for me...

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