Thursday, September 29, 2016

A lesson for me in sports....

As a kid growing up, I didn't do sports. My parents more ran with the philosophy of play outside and come in for dinner or come in by dark. As I got older my parents got my sister and I into music but never sports. I joked around with my mom because she signed me up for a trial of gymnastics and apparently I loved it and the coach told my mom I had "natural talent" and should be moved up to a more rigorous class more days a week and that was the end of my gymnastics career. My parents valued good grades and kindness but not sports. So naturally, that was my bent as well. Fast forward to college, I marry the punter of the Auburn football team right after graduation. John loves all sports and everything about sports. He loves the game and the challenge, he loves the underdog stories, after all he was one. To say we were coming into parenting with different background and values on child sports was an understatement. However when I found my 18 month old repeatedly in the bathroom and kitchen sink and when her greatest joy was leaping herself out of the crib, I jokingly suggested this monkey needed to be in a sport with padded floors. So we landed in gymnastics at age 2. By the time she was four the coach saw in her that "natural talent" and suggested she move to the two days a week two hour class. I scoffed as I told John, can you believe this? A four year old going to gymnastics 4 hours a week? He challenged me, she comes alive when she does gymnastics, it builds her confidence and strength and discipline, why not? The conversation actually didn't go that easily, but I conceded and she jumped up. A few months later it was an extra day at 2 hours practice, a year later she started pre-team and jumped to 9 hours of practice a week. When Reese wasn't at practice she was flipping, cart-wheeling, and "conditioning" to build her muscles to get better. None of it was driven by us, she had a fire in her heart to get better and be the best she could at this sport she loved.

She started competing and loved it. We were driving 1-3 hours for her meets, then her practices jumped to 12 hours a week. I struggled with the decision. Honestly, I feel like the church at large downplays sports as something that takes kids away from church and family time and I felt the tension of the time she was spending at the gym. I didn't want to let my kid drive our schedule but at the same time I wanted to support her dream and love for a sport that we didn't have to do anything to foster in her. It was a continual discussion in our marriage, always coming to it from two different perspectives of what value sports held in our family. We then had to make a tough decision to leave the gym we were at that was 5 minutes from home because the competitive program ended at the age she was. The gym at that time we saw the most potential in was 40 minutes from home one way. And at the age she was her practices were now 15 hours a week in 3rd grade. Reese begged to keep going and wanted to make it work. John supported her and I was left torn thinking of driving 3 days a week down and back to drop her off and down and back 5 hours later to pick her up.We moved forward and Reese flourished. She loved the challenge of the new gym, the harder workouts, the way the coaches pushed her toward excellence. During that time, I saw something growing in her that started to change my heart on the value of sports in her life.
I saw her not getting new skills and cheering on others who were. I saw Reese come home from gym and work a skill repetitively, determined to get it. I saw her learning time management as she did her homework on the drive from school to gym and do her required reading time while she ate dinner on the way home from practice before crashing into bed. I saw her come home from practice with bloody hands or sore legs or bruised hips and saying she couldn't wait to work even harder the next practice. I saw her on vacation bringing with her a list of workouts she could do to stay in great condition while away from the gym. I saw her get bad scores at meets, tear up, and let it push her to try harder the next time. I saw her pray and ask God for help. I saw her rally around her team mates when they struggled both in or out of the gym. I saw her pray for or with other team mates who's parents were sick or splitting up. This sport which I didn't see very much value in was helping transform her in the very values we were trying to teach at home: generosity, hard work, responsibility, kindness, perseverance, and prayer. It was her breeding ground for working those things out and she did it beautifully. She has had to make hard decisions, give up some things "normal kids" can do because of her schedule, she has had to listen to criticism and take what of it she needed to get better and leave the rest alone, she has wrestled with what it feels like to work the hardest and not be the best, she has had to weigh tough choices and push her body through pain. God has started to show me he can work through non traditional ways to mold his children into who he is making them to be. It all doesn't have to be under my roof or in my "control". He has got Reese and he is using the gifts he has given her to develop her into an amazing young woman. 
I talk with Reese often about identity, I tell her, you're identity is not gymnastics, you are a child of God and one of your gifts is gymnastics. You can use that to bring God glory or yourself glory and it will sometimes be a daily decision. I told her the other day, you don't have to do gymnastics to earn acceptance, you do gymnastics from a place of acceptance, knowing God accepts and loves you for who you are not what you do, then you are freed up to live out your gifting and passions as he leads you instead of doing what you're great at to get attention and approval from others. Scores don't matter to me, scholarships don't matter to me, the heart matters. 
I am so proud to see Reese blossoming into a beautiful 10 year old. She is strong and kind and brave, she can do hard things, she knows God is with her and for her, and she knows what it feels like to be living out your passion. I pray I can continue to support her as her cheerleader and mom and keep pointing her to Jesus as she practices living out her passions before Him in this stage of life as he prepares her for the next. God has a beautiful routine planned out for her life, she has tuned her ears in to listen to her Coach and obey each command, whether she falls or does it beautifully she keeps on going: through suffering or pain or difficulty she gets back up and does it again. Jesus is teaching both of us what this adventure of following him can be like.

No comments:

Post a Comment