To Sport or Not to Sport: A Teenager’s Lament

I am creating a monster, methinks. Actually, I’ve already created a monster. I have successfully managed – for the 252nd time this year – to turn Chloe into a stressed-out teenager. The reason for this particular episode of stress: her indecision about participating in a team sport this fall and my insistence that she make a decision already, for crying out loud!

The other day, we went on a family outing to a lovely state park.  After a night of storms, the clouds had cleared and the weather was gorgeous. The perfect early fall day. The lake reflected the blue of the sky, the green of the leaves and the brightly colored kayaks.  Young children frolicked happily on the playground. A number of intrepid souls were in the water swimming.


The setting was ideal for a relaxing afternoon. And it was relaxing – after we cleaned up Truffle’s puke from the back seat of the car (thanks, Google Maps, for leading us to a non-existent park entrance, thereby making the poor pup nauseous from all of our illegal u-turns). And it remained relaxing – until I broached the subject of sports with Chloe.

I broached it because Chloe’s been contemplating trying a team sport this fall (I previously discussed my girls’ severe sports allergy here).  You know, to see if she likes one enough to pursue it next year in high school. Because let’s face it, given the sacrifices she’ll have to make if she participates in a high school sport, she’d better find one she really enjoys since it will take over her life (not to mention ours).

High school sports – yet another example of how we can’t seem to do anything in moderation in the U.S. But that’s neither here nor there.

To her credit, Chloe’s voice remained relatively even-keeled during her ensuing rant. But her agitation and conflicted feelings about the whole sports thing were evident as she voiced her not-unreasonable concerns. Her lament, an exceedingly long run-on sentence, went something like this:

If I do a friggin’ sport, I won’t have time for anything else. How do kids do it? I mean I can’t give up my life for it. I’m not even a good athlete! If I do crew, I’ll have to go to practice every day. I won’t be able to go away for spring break [this is true, we checked. Such draconian attendance requirements are also apparently increasingly common]. What about my books? What if I want to babysit or have another job? What if I want to spend time with my friends? How will I have time for my homework? What if I want to join some clubs? High school will suck! Maybe there’s a sport for lazy people like me. But what if there isn’t? Maybe cross-country? I might not be too suckish [the kid’s word, not mine] at cross-country. This is so frustrating!”

We had a similar conversation the following day. We were prodding Chloe to make a decision, one way or the other, about trying something this fall because, you know, pretty soon it will be Christmas. This time, though, I pushed her too far. Because I reiterated that the high school sports she’s targeting will likely require her to attend practice and go through try-outs next summer.

Does that mean we won’t be able to go away? What about summer camp? I really wanted to do summer camp one last time next year.” This second discussion quickly progressed from cool, calm, collected to “Mom, I can’t talk about this with you anymore!” And I admit it, I’m not at my best when it comes to this kind of talk. I don’t tolerate dithering very well. And as a parent, I’ve learned that the ability to tolerate dithering is worth its weight in gold. But since I am one of the most impatient people I know and parents need boatloads of patience to endure the torture that is kids’ indecisiveness…well, you can imagine the scene.


I know and you know and parents of sporty kids know that thousands of teens participate in high school sports every year and many also manage to get good grades, hold down part-time jobs and even participate in an extracurricular club or two. So it’s not impossible.

But I’m willing to bet that most of those kids love (or at least like a whole lot) the sports they play, or have parents who push their kids to play. It’d be the last activity they’d give up. So what do you do about a kid, like Chloe, whose interest in sports is of the wishy-washy “I suppose I’d do it if I had to, but please tell me I don’t have to, but I think I should try it anyway” variety? Do you force her to try? Do you simply encourage her to do some kind of physical activity, even if it’s a solitary endeavor, for her own personal fulfillment and health?

Frankly, if it weren’t for Chloe’s assertion that she wants to try a high school sport to expand her horizons and meet new kids, I’d leave her the hell alone. She could ride a unicycle or juggle and I’d be happy as long as she was happy.

So I’ve decided to shut up about the whole sports thing. I’m done. My husband and I have shared our ideas, opinions and concerns with Chloe. From now on, unless she proactively seeks out our advice on the matter, she can listen to the mama and papa voices in her head and figure it out for herself.  It’s all just part of growing up, right?

2 thoughts on “To Sport or Not to Sport: A Teenager’s Lament”

  1. Hehe! I am grinning cause my son who’s at uni now, never did ANY sport and we worried – meaning I worried – even though he has inherited those very genes from me and hubby dearest. To say that our interest is ‘wishywashy’ is to put it mildly – it is non existent!

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