Why I made you play soccer…

(Tonight’s post brought to you by the fact that I’ve caught up with the live episodes of Lost and have nothing else to watch and the fact that soccer season is starting.)

When I visited Camp Chippewa a couple of summers ago, I came back very affected by it. The thought that still resonates from that trip is this.

It is a powerful thing to visit as an adult the place to which you attribute many of things about yourself of which you are most proud.

(For those of you who don’t know, I spent 3 summers as a camper and 5 or so as a counselor at a camp in northern Minnesota. The camp was run at the time by my 5th/6th grade math teacher, Mr. Endres, of whom I couldn’t be more fond. Still, to this day, Camp Chippewa is one of my favorite places in the world. It’s a small but traditional outdoor boys camp, complete with canoeing, sailing, swimming, tripping, soccer, archery, etc. I say this without hesitation, Camp Chippewa is the only reason I have ever wished that I had a boy. If you are reading this, and you have a boy who is 7 to 14 or will be 7 to 14 at some point in the future, you should unequivocally consider Camp Chippewa. Please ask me about it. Really.)

So, back to the primary thought of the post. I was given countless opportunities as a kid. I was exposed to the obvious boy stuff, like sports and boy scounts, and the less obvious stuff, “girly” stuff, like musical theater and Barry Manilow (thanks, Karen and Jenni). While I am admittedly proud of certain girly things about myself (that’ll be another post, for which you’ll have to wait patiently), many of the things of which I’m proud (self-sufficiency, toughness, leadership of a certain type) come from things like Chippewa and, in a more broadly accessible manner, sports. These are talents that I hope to instill in my daughters, talents that may well be more important for them as women then they were/are for me as a man.

While I recognize that my girls are 8 and 6 respectively, and I only can see a small part of the arc of their life story, I can already see such positive impacts from soccer (or generally team sports) for them. Our first practice for the spring was to be held March 3rd. Early spring weather in Nashville is a bit dodgy, and March 3rd was one of those days. Yes, it was dry enough, but the temperature was topping out around 40 degrees. Brrr. I picked the girls up at school, brought them over to the field, and we changed clothes in the car as we do each week for soccer. We changed in the car so we wouldn’t freeze when we got out. As we always do, we cruised over to the bathroom, etc, and filled up our water bottles. As we were returning to the car, we commented briefly on the temperature and both girls ran off toward the car. When we got there, it was apparent that neither was trying to jump back in… they were trying to get the balls out of the back so we could go play. How cool is that?! Seriously, it never even seemed to occur to the girls that it was too cold to play or that they should whine about it… they were both so focused on going to play a game. I hope that they will always remember, as they did on the 3rd, that doing something fun is worth the effort/pain required to do it. I was endlessly proud of them for that attitude (one that wasn’t shared by all the girls that day) and I told them as much.

A week later, we got the other end of Nashville spring… 70 degrees for practice. And you know what? The girls were ready to go again. We had our full team at Aspen’s practice for the first time, and we had literally just discussed the importance of toughness with the team. Early in the season, I regularly ask, “What do you do if you get knocked down?” The answer from the team? “Get back up.” Well, on the very next play in practice, Aspen took a hard fall, a bloody one, in which both knees immediately had some blood on them. Aspen wanted to cry; I could see it immediately. But do you know what she did? She popped up, ran to get her ball, and came right back to the drill and waited her turn. For me, in a group of 8 year old girls, this is the ultimate kind of leadership. It’s not about being the loudest kid, or the most obnoxious… this kind of leadership plays on the playground at school. This is a kind of leadership that I hope my girls always display. I trust that a simple bump of the knuckles with Aspen told her how I felt about her right then.

Enough bragging on my daughters. I really hope they keep playing sports for a long time. I hope I get to play with them. I spent about 30 minutes playing catch with Aspen today. I love to play catch. My girls have never been that into the repetitive nature of the game… it might be one of those things that’s just a little different between boys and girls. But today, Aspen was totally into it, and it was so much fun. I really hope it continues… But if it doesn’t, that’s OK. I hope they take away a few things from the experience. I’m pretty sure that they will.

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