Yesterday, B scored two goals at her soccer game! I was ecstatic. Overall, I’d say she’s a very average player in the league who had a very good day. Remember that B didn’t walk until 17 months and had therapy for gross motor delays. Everyone says, “they all develop at their own pace and she’ll catch up,” which is actually nonsense. Kids who are behind early may catch up in the sense that, yes, that will eventually learn to walk. However, many or even most will be consistently behind their peers in terms of gross motor unless they receive continuing support in order to catch up and keep up. (Of course, it depends on why the child was delayed. L was a late walker because she considered walking dangerous and didn’t want to do it. B was a late walker due to hypotonia and other issues.)
When we first took B to soccer a couple years ago, they had a program where a hundred or more kids would show up at a giant field and they’d divide them into groups and have a “practice.” It wasn’t well set up to meet the needs of less talented kids and had a two year age range, which is huge at age 5 and 6. B, with a late birthday, was one of the youngest kids there. They also didn’t segregate by gender. There were maybe two boys in B’s group of 10, and they dominated 90% of the play with one or two girls managing to participate and the rest mostly watching and running around without ever touching the ball. B spent most of the session in tears because she couldn’t keep up when they ran, and she couldn’t keep up when they dribbled, and she didn’t know how to dribble anyway, and she couldn’t do the drills and so on. I was pregnant and feeling like crap and it was kind of a nightmare, but it was apparent to Jonathan and I that she was far behind the other kids and that she wouldn’t “catch up” or keep up unless we put in some work.
Since then, during soccer season, we do our best to play soccer with her most days for half an hour or so. We also sign her up for all the playing opportunities – the clinics, the winter indoor soccer, etc. It’s been a fair amount of work, though also a lot of fun. She enjoys it. With that said, I wonder if other parents are doing this with their kids. Maybe some are but I assume most aren’t. With all this work, despite B’s amazing goals today, she’s barely average, maybe a little below average, compared to the other kids. (She is, however, gaining a better field sense and learning how to be in the right place at the right time and to take the opportunity to shoot if it arises – hence, her goals.)
Perhaps we should just sign her up for chess or some other activity that doesn’t require coordination or strength. Personally, however, I believe that great joy can be achieved through sport and physical activity, and I think a lot of unathletic kids are denied that joy because so many sports programs are set up to reward the most talented children. I want B to have the opportunity to find joy in sport and team competition. If she decides it’s not her thing when she’s older, that’s obviously fine.
L has made it pretty clear that she’s not interested in ball sports (too dangerous – you might get hit!), but I’m glad she seems to have found her niche in dance, gymnastics and swim.