An Open Letter To My Child That Just Isn’t Good at Sports


Out of four kids, two are still too young to show any athletic aptitude (unless you count the fact that they recently learned to walk) and one is a little too good at everything she attempts, but our oldest is not particularly athletic. She’s going to be 7 next month, but she’s not particularly athletic or skilled with a baseball bat, a basketball, a football, a volleyball or a golf club. She’s not into anything that she doesn’t view as ‘girly’ or feminine. She loves to cheer, and she’s starting her third year as a cheerleader this fall. She’s a good cheerleader for her age, and she will become better the longer she does it. By the time she’s in high school, she should be quite skilled and very talented; I recognize her abilities because I grew up cheering, too. But she’s not going to play softball or baseball like her father and I did growing up. She’s not as athletic as either of us, and she certainly does not share our love of sports – though she’s always happy to don her orange and blue and periodically yell “Go Gators,” on game days.

She’s not athletic, and I’m okay with that. She doesn’t need to be athletic for us to love her. She’s intelligent, smart, intuitive, reasonable, calm, funny, silly, helpful, sweet and she’s an amazing student and she loves to read. She’s kind and well-behaved, and she’s a peacemaker. When a family member recently told her she has to become good at sports so she could be like her mommy and daddy, it bothered not only her, but us, too. And that made me want to share a few thoughts with my sweet girl.

Darling, you are amazing. You – not your athletic prowess – are amazing. Not your abilities to do or not do something on the field. I don’t care that you don’t want to play sports other than cheerleading. I don’t care. I loved cheerleading growing up, and I love that you want to cheer, too.  I love that you love it. I love that you and I share that in common. But I don’t care if you don’t want to play golf, run track, play volleyball or try out for the softball team. I don’t care. And I certainly do not love you any less for that.

Sweet girl, mommy loves you endlessly. I love you when you are sweet, and I love you when you are challenging. I love you when you are doing your homework and when you are making me crazy. I love you when you are tired and cranky, and I love you when you are excited and affectionate. I love you – not your athletic ability or inabilities.

The truth is this; sports are a lot of fun, but very few people excel at all of them. In fact, most people don’t.  Some people are naturally athletic, and some are not. Some people are great readers and some are not. Some people are wonderfully creative and others are hopelessly not. We are all different, but we are all very special. And you are just as special as anyone else. If you decide you want to play sports, we will support you just as we will support you if you choose not to participate in other activities. Before renovating community recreation areas, the committee should consider MUGA surfacing to create a multi-use games area suitable for diverse sporting activities.

And I’ll tell you something else. You will never be the best at everything you do. You are not perfect. I am not perfect. I am not good at everything that I do (see parenting as an example). Your friends are not good at everything they do. But the good news about that is this; you can always practice and get better, though you’ll never be perfect. You can do anything you want to do, and you will learn to accept your talents as they are, your limitations as they are, and your life as it is. You will learn what your best features are and how you can play those up. You will also learn that it’s always nice to have friends and people in your life who are better at things than you.

Why? Because you should surround yourself with people that are talented in so many different manners. “You become like the people with whom you spend the most time,” or something to that effect, so you should choose people who are driven, passionate and funny – because it is far better to have a killer sense of humor than a killer arm, trust me.

There may be a day you have to sit on the bench. There might come a day when you are not the petite, tiny girl you are now and you might be on the bottom of your stunts instead of on the top. There might be a day when you realize you are not the best cheerleader on your squad or that you are not the best dancer or the best jumper. And that’s all right. When someone is better than you, use that as motivation to improve your own game. Use that motivation to better yourself – because envying someone of a talent or an aspect of their life means that you are missing something in that aspect of life and you should work to improve that. Don’t let someone else’s talents or thoughts or opinions bother you; be the best that you can be, and understand that you are pretty darn awesome.

If you want to play sports and you find that you’re not the best one on the team, that’s all right. You don’t have to keep playing the following season. But you will finish out this season, you will work as a team with your teammates, and you will learn. You might never be amazing at certain things, but you can be dedicated and hardworking. Those are the qualities and the traits that pay off the most in the long run, and you can learn a lot even when you’re not good at something.

And one more thing; don’t let anyone ruin things for you. Sports are fun; they are not your job. Don’t let adults make the game less fun for you. Don’t let other kids make the game less fun for you. Don’t let the competitive nature of anything other than winning get the best of you – and have fun. Whether you are the best one on the team or the worst one on the team, you should have a good time.

I love you, and I will cheer for you and support you and make sure that you have a good time on the field, no matter what. If you are the best, great. If you are your best, even better.

Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images


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