In the past, I have not pushed my son to play sports, which is unusual to my upbringing. I started playing sports ever since I was four years old. I played multiple kinds of sports as well, but mainly played baseball. So, when my son was four years old I started him into T-ball.
For so many reasons T-ball failed for my son and was most likely the key to his leading discouragement. Around that age, he was still dealing with speech therapy, so taking instructions was very hard and overwhelming for him. As mentioned in previous blogs, he has receptive/expressive language disorder, which is having the difficulty of following directions and expressing to others. At this point of speech therapy, we were still learning what exactly he was struggling with. He would get overwhelmed easily, especially when I tried to help. It makes sense that he had to get frustrated with the closest person to him, but I always wondered if I could of handled it better. I have held guilt from that maybe I played a part in his discouragement from sports, but deep down I know I was only trying to help.
Another part of his difficulties, he is ambidextrous. We often wondered if he was just confused and was still learning what hand he preferred more, but he is still a hand and foot switcher. So, this became very frustrating to him, because I bought him a right handers glove, but sometimes he wanted to switch hands he wanted the glove on. Some of our disagreements were that he didn’t want to wear it on the left hand…or wear it at all.
Plus, it was only T-ball. The children were all behind on learning the basic fundamentals of playing baseball. In fact, whenever the opposite team hit the ball the whole team would run after it and tackle each other for the ball. It was cute, but kind of disappointing. The other teams understood that they had positions and what each position’s responsibilities were. Unfortunately we were the only team that had kids play like football players. So, my son followed the other kids in confusion, and cried whenever the other kids beat him to the ball. Plus, it was way too boring for him. Too much standing around, nothing to keep him stimulated. He was way too active and impatient for this type of thing.
Quite honestly, it just wasn’t his sport. He didn’t want to finish out the season, but he went anyways. I was a baseball player, and my son honestly just isn’t and that’s okay with me. I just wish he stuck it out, because he had a mean hit on him. It just didn’t suit his liking.
After T-ball, I tried suggesting that he play other sports. I tried suggesting basketball and soccer, but he wouldn’t do it. I don’t want to force him to do something that he’s not comfortable doing. Over the past few years, my son’s self esteem and confidence has been at a heart wrenching low. School has taken a responsibility of that between the speech therapy, low grades, and his peers constantly challenging him. Mostly his father has constantly failed him as well. How could this child feel like he could achieve anything or be great in anything, when his school fails him, his peers are mean to him and his very own father treats him as if he is last place in his life. We have been through some heartbreaking years. Ones that brings tears to my eyes as I write about this. All I could do was constantly love him and be the support that he needed ever so much. I kept him afloat, encouraged him daily and drove him to learn his worth. Sports wasn’t going to make that situation any better.
However, this child is strong, resilient and brave. Things started to change last year. I broke my ankle last year in January, and unfortunately I was down for about four months. We had to stay with my father while I was unable to care for my son or even myself. During that same time, he finally had a teacher that said enough is enough – this child needs help. Even though, there were only a few months left in the school year, we re-opened his IEP. I was grateful that he was able to start this school year already in it. I’m not sure if it was due to the IEP, needing to be strong when I was down or that my dad was our second support system while I was down, but something changed in my son this school year. The first day of school, he was confident and answering questions in front of the classroom. He changed to be much more positive, strong and happier, which was a blessing to see.
When, we lost our home and had to move next to my dad’s house over the fall, I tried to occupy my son’s mind. I knew he had missed playing with his neighborhood friends in the backyard, so I tried to play the role in place of that. So, I found some small orange cones and set them up to use them as goals. I told my son, “How about we play soccer?”. He looked at me, “Yea, okay”. Ever since that day, we had been playing soccer in the backyard. He has actually taken a likening to the sport. In which, this was quite different for him. My dad and brothers decided to join in on the fun. So, Monday through Wednesday depending on the weather, we would all go out and play a full game of soccer..or two. This built my son’s confidence in the sport and helped him progress his skills. This was a whole new thing for my son. He actually enjoyed the sport.
I knew that this was the perfect time to start him on a team. He has actually taken an interest in something, so I want to build that up. So, I walked him into the YMCA to sign him up. The whole time he begged me not to, “Please don’t. I’m scared. What if people look at me?”. That has always been his excuse. He doesn’t want people to look at him. I promised him that it would be good for him and mainly everyone there would be mainly watching their own children. This time, I wasn’t backing down – I was going to sign him up!
After I signed him up, I often contemplated how this would go. Will this be another sport to set his self esteem back? Will he hate it and resent me for it? Will he make friends? Hopefully, I don’t waste my money on top of it. $85 for signing up, $53 for soccer cleats and $16 in shin guards…this better be worth it. Most importantly, I’m taking a chance on it, because I think I truly believe in him and I think he is ready. But does he believe in himself?
First day of practice, we took our time going to Chik-Fil-A for dinner. I got him dressed in his new sport socks, shin guards and soccer cleats. Then we took off for the field. “I’m excited, but also nervous”, he said. That was the first enthusiastic reaction from it. Maybe the outfit made him feel like a real soccer player and gave him the positive boost that he needed. Once we got there, we searched for his team. We walked up to the coach and introduced ourselves. The coach was very polite and encouraging. He didn’t care that my son had never played on a team before, and luckily my son wasn’t the only one just joining in. “Well, let’s break in those new cleats and warm up with your team”, Coach S told my son. He smiled and slowly walked onto the field with the other boys. I could tell that he was apprehensive and anxious, because he kept his hands in his pockets – one of his usual habits of nervousness.
After some warming up with kicking the ball around and spiking some balls into the goal. The coach gathered all of the boys together in a circle for stretches and introductions. “Tell everyone your name, age and your favorite animal”, Coach S instructed the boys. After that, he made the boys run 2 laps, and line up for some basic kicking skills. He showed the boys how to point with the opposite foot for better aiming and other basics. I took down notes on my phone of what aspects that I need to work on at home with my son this week. As they began doing different drills, my son often looked back at me with a wide drawn smile. I could tell he was enjoying himself. He was following instructions pretty well, and he was keeping up with his teammates. He kept getting put together with one boy in different practice drills. He started creating a bond with him, which was great to see. During the first water break, my son didn’t stop for water, he just kept practicing.
Finally, after about an hour, the practice was over. My son ran over to me with sweat dripping off of him and dirty knees, “That was so much fun!” he shouted. I could feel the smile on my face, “Really? So you liked it!”. He grabbed the water bottle, “Yeah! it was awesome!..Coach said that practice is next Monday”, he replied. I just couldn’t contain how excited I was from his reaction. This was truly a new beginning.
My son grew the strength within himself to become better than he ever was. He is on the honor roll, he is achieving his goals on his IEP, he knows his worth, and now he is playing on a sports team while making new friends. I’m glad he is meeting new kids that are doing the things that he loves and can develop friendships based on their similar interests. He can gain so much from playing sports and I’m so grateful that we have finally reached that point in his life where he can do this now. It took lots of heartbreaks and getting back up from our troubles to finally get here. I am looking forward to seeing all that he will gain from this as well. I am proud of him and looking forward to an amazing new season…and new person in him.