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Me kicking butt at a blackbelt test.

Me kicking butt at a blackbelt test.

Want to learn something else about me? I grew up thinking I was a klutz. Maybe I was one. (See proof: Saturday Stupidity.) The evidence was right in front of me on a daily basis. I was always the kid picked last for sports. Always the last one left in dodge ball — the one who got pelted with balls. I played Little League. I was the worst one on the team. I joined the badminton team. I lost. A lot. By the end of junior high I decided I hated all sports, and formulated a plan so I would be able to sit out all four years of high school gym. It worked, actually. Somehow I convinced a doctor to give me a get-out-of-gym note. Who knows what it said, but I can remember sitting in the library writing reports about obscure sports — my punishment for avoiding the field. Cricket, squash, table tennis. I can still tell you all about them. But then something happened when I hit my 20s. I realized I was wrong about sports.

It started with yoga. I took a community program with a group of my friends. I did it under duress. I wasn’t interested in yoga, but didn’t want to miss out on an organized, weekly social event. During that class we all sat together in the back, getting routinely yelled at for talking. The teacher was actually one of the scarier women I have ever met. But during those classes, a seed was planted. I loved the way I felt when I moved. I realized I am actually very flexible. I was — and am — dare I say it, really good at yoga. So good, in fact, that I was taking classes four times a week by the time we finished our community program. Eventually, I even became a yoga teacher.

From there I started taking classes at the gym. I started running. I signed up for another community program — volleyball — and I was good at that, too. Not Gabrielle Reece good, but good enough that I didn’t suck, and I actually had fun. Karate came next. Again, I was pleasantly surprised. All that yoga made my core strong. I am a pretty fantastic grappler, keeping even big men down on the ground. I took my passion all the way, going for my black belt test at 18 weeks pregnant. (Not the contact stuff, of course.) I took the test two more times since giving birth, and while I haven’t gotten my black belt yet, I know that someday that I will.

Okay, you might be wondering, what’s the point? Big Girl is an exact physical replica of me. I was tall and lanky as a child. Stringy, even, no matter how much I ate. (Too bad that didn’t last past my teenage years!) My oldest daughter has the same physical stature. Tall and skinny, I call her my tiny heiney. She actually went to physical therapy as a toddler to strengthen her legs. (An Early Intervention assessment showed she was slightly low tone, but she didn’t qualify for services, so we got them for her using our insurance.) But there is one big difference between us: Big Girl loves sports. She’s on the soccer team. She’s on the swim team. She takes dance lessons. She does yoga. She may not be the best one in the room, but she’s in there trying, and — at least in her mind — she is great at what she does. Most important: She’s having a lot of fun.

So if we have the same physical makeup, why is she in there going gangbusters while her mommy spent four years writing about sports rather than playing them? I think the main difference is that we always told her that there isn’t anything she can’t do once she sets her mind to do it. We also taught her that not every athlete is a natural. Sports and physical activities don’t come easy to everyone. Practice is key. I guess that’s why, although she may not be a professional athlete when she grows up, she’s certainly going to enjoy the ride — or game or lap or scrimmage.

I’m involved in a new sport right now. I’m taking a ballet class. This Monday, after working until 3:30 a.m. the night before and waking up at 7:45, I had to drag myself to the class. And I sucked. Big time. Everyone else in the room was catching on. And I was struggling. I was floundering. Truthfully, I was drowning. If I listened to the child Karen in my head, I would have let myself start crying and run out, never to come back. The mommy Karen, however, decided to stick it out. I had to believe my own hype — that anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it. And so next time Big Girl gets frustrated because, for example, she can’t do the walking backward drill in soccer, I can honestly tell her that even the most challenging skills can be learned, and it’s worth sticking with it until you get it right. (Or as close to right as you can come.) As for my dance career? I’m planning on being in the recital in June. I’ll never be a prima ballerina, but who cares? Most of the time I am having fun, and that’s all that matters.

Were you an athlete as a child? Do you still play anything? Do your kids play sports? What do you think they are getting out of their experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

2 Responses to “Échappé, Glissade, Pas de Bourrée — No Way!”

  1. MarthaandMe says:

    I hated gym class and was always picked last. I had no sports ability at all. I did ride my bike a lot as a kids, but mostly as a form of transportation, not because it was fun! After my second child was born, I started walking at the mall. And 11 years later, I’m still doing it. I walk 3 miles a day and I love it. It clears my head, gets my heart pumping and makes me feel good about my body.

  2. Shari says:

    I too became “athletic” as an adult, not as a child. My parents never encouraged me to sign up for sports, not even dance. In high school I was on cheerleading, however I did not look like the typical cheerleader- I was short and chubby. While I am still short, I am no longer chubby thanks to my inner athlete that was born after my child hood was gone.

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