As a mom, I worry. Okay, that’s obvious. I worry about my kids being accepted, capable, respectful, proud, and confident. When it comes to sports I feel like I need to choose wisely. Here is the deal, I am almost 6 feet tall and my husband is 6’2” so our kids are, well, giants. At 3 years old my son, Adam was the exact size of the average 6 year old. Now he’s 6 and I’m thinking about making him get a job he’s so big. I know everyone’s situation is different. You may have a child who is tiny, or overweight, or underweight, with special needs, or just completely uncoordinated… the only thing you need to worry about is to doing what’s best for your child.
I thought about having my son join football, but the problem was the sign-up sheets read “Don’t worry, we group the kids by size not age, so no one gets hurt” so he would be being tackled by 10 year olds. Not going to happen. I thought about wrestling which goes by weight, and he would be grappling with 10 year olds. Again, not going to happen. We tried soccer. He hated it. He is what you would call a “lover, not a fighter” so when someone wanted the ball, he would kick it to them… no matter what team they were on…
The one thing he really loves is riding his bike. It’s fun. He can go on long rides with Gramps to find Geocaches, he can go get dirty at the dirt jump part, or circle endlessly around the car in the driveway, doesn’t matter what, it’s always fun.
I will be the first to admit that I am competitive, and secretly want my kids to have that fire inside them too. When you sign your kid up for a sport and they really aren’t into it, it isn’t fun for them, you, or the coach who is desperately trying to wrangle your inattentive “lover boy.”
After I started working at STRIDER, I discovered USA BMX. Talk about an intimidating sport! Full face helmets, giant jumps, a loud gate that crashes down and sends your child down onto a dirt track that you are sure is going to scar them for life… It’s not like that. Turns out the 6 year old novice class doesn’t do a whole lot of “jumping” the full face helmets, while intimidating in appearance, are really just there to save you some money on dental bills should they get their teeth bumped on a friend or their bike (on a side note, maybe parents should think about putting those on kids at soccer practice! I’m kidding!… sort of.) They crash, a lot, but I haven’t seen a single kid out for the night because of a wreck. It teaches them humility, you crash, you dust yourself off, you get back up. It teaches them respect, if there is a “man down” in practice, you get off your bike and help them off the track so no one gets hurt.
My first moments of watching Adam at the track were painful, he walked up almost every hill, and half the time he didn’t have enough pushing momentum that he just feel right over even if he wasn’t on his bike. When the kids ride before the moto races begin, all of the ages and abilities ride together. The STRIDER Class is riding right alongside the adults. (Although many tracks have totally separate STRIDER Tracks and practice times. Most, if not all, do have a time frame that allows only STRIDER kids on the track, and the actual STRIDER motos start and finish lines are only a portion of the full track.) As I am watching my son go around the track, slow, and crashing more than riding, the gate dropped for the second practice heat and he is only about half way to the finish line. There are 10 and 12 year old boys going fast, they are jumping, they are good. Adam is in their way. He’s going to get run over. They are going to be so annoyed that he is in the middle of the track with his bike tipped over, again. My nerves were building up as they got closer and closer to him and that is when it happened… They stopped. They picked up his bike dusted him off told him keep trying and they finished. And so did he. I took a deep breath and I choked up a little bit thinking about how I really hope those boys’ parents were watching, because seeing that is better than seeing a first class race finish any day.
We’re nearing the end of his first BMX Season. We know the lingo, and how it works (thanks to some awesome dads who were more than willing to answer all of my “so what happens if…” questions on the first night.) Adam still isn’t the most competitive dude. BMX has “moto” races which are usually two or three separate races that let you qualify for the “main” race at the end of the night, where only the top 4 riders of the first motos in each class are able to race. (That is the race where you can win the ribbons or trophies and get points.) The kids that don’t qualify for the main, get to participate in the “sportsman’s race” with other non-qualifying racers. All ages, even the STRIDERS.
Last week he didn’t qualify for the main, and the sportsman’s race consisted of: one 12 year old, two 8 year olds, Adam, who is 6, and one STRIDER rider. As you can probably imagine, they finished in that order as well. BUT… What Adam won in that sportsman’s race was better and bigger than any trophy. At the end, he was approached by the 12 year old who gave him a great big high-five, and a piece of candy. And then Adam went to the STRIDER rider, gave him a big-high five, and reminded him that everyone in that race wins candy, so don’t forget to go get his piece too.
USA BMX has the slogan “Nobody sits in the bench in BMX!” I’m so proud to say that my son’s bike is his sport. And I am so excited about all the STRIDER kids that race with him. I know those kids will be the 12 year olds giving the high-fives someday.
Even if you have decided as a parent that you would rather not participate in an organized sport, putting your child on his or her STRIDER bike, having them interact with friends and instilling confidence in them everyday means you don’t have to worry. You’re doing it right.
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