Confession time: I have amblyopia (the funny brain defect with a goofy name). You know, that condition Linus Van Pelt had where he had to wear an eye-patch. It’s not an eye thing, though; structurally, the eye is fine.
It’s the brain that’s wonky.
You’d never know to look at me that my vision was not perfect. (And, in fact, my vision is excellent, except for lacking certain data about distances.) So my father could be forgiven for considering me clumsy, since I used to walk into walls all the time. And certainly, when childhood games moved out of the wrestling/grappling territory and into things with fast-moving small objects, it’s understandable that I wouldn’t be favored for teams, nor would I for the most part tend to enjoy it much.
And it’s understandable that I might have an idea that, maybe, I’m not that athletic, though I did fairly well in archery and the sport seemed to improve my vision somewhat.
Once I had vehicular freedom–critical for here in the “Southland”, since nothing is near anything else–I followed a girl into a martial arts studio. And with a great deal of work (martial arts is not something I was a natural at) and applying my strengths (the ability and willingness to apply tactics even if not comfortable or natural for me, since nothing was comfortable or natural at first), I managed to become a fair competitor and ultimately get my blackbelt. Somewhat ironically, I also picked up my sense of team dynamic (something “team sports” in school was supposed to achieve, somehow, and never did).
So, was I (am I) athletic? The martial arts worked for me because they aren’t, in the final analysis, visual. They’re tactile. With a fair assessment of distance, you’re only concerned with angle and level of attack. Once you close in, your eyes are useless; you have to go by feel.
But if I wanted to go play basketball, I’d have a hard time. Even with a lot of practice, I’d be a drag even in a relatively casual situation. (I mention this because there are local “mom’s leagues” which are relatively low-entry, but not really “dad’s leagues”.) Baseball would be even worse. Tackle football would be okay–I could be a lineman once I trained myself not to kick people who were charging at me–but that’s not very common.
I mention this because The Boy is in a similar situation. His vision is just fine, but during the years when most kids were learning to play ball, he had no energy. Now that he feels much better, the fact that he’s strong and fast and agile doesn’t change the fact that he’s not very adept at team sports. (I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t even try now.) At his age, the die is cast: The boys who play those sorts of sports are very good at them, and dreaming of scholarships and lucrative contracts.
So he swims and lifts weights and shoots which only require him to improve himself and he’ll have plenty of outlets for his athleticism (oh, he fences, too), but the window for those big-time sports is fairly closed. (And he won’t be interested in them for some time, if ever.)
Of course, the importance of this is questionable. It’s not like I was expecting him to be a baseball/football/basketball star and to support me in a lavish lifestyle. (No, I expect him to be a financial/business genius and support me in a lavish lifestyle from that.) I found a niche, and he will, too, probably in the martial arts (he likes boxing).
As a parent, though, I hate to see a door closed for what seems to be an arbitrary reason: He could certainly play any of those sports, except for the intense demands that require those sports to be performed at a particular level beyond a certain age.
It’s one reason I’m happy to see the the Flower engaging in those sports (well, not football, which I think they discourage boys from playing, these days) and encouraging her to work outside of her comfort zone. It’s a light touch: She’s suspicious of parental praise and resistant to practicing.
But with luck, she’ll be able to comfortably play these games for the rest of her life.