I might have to turn in my American card after admitting this, but...
Hello, my name is Jessica. And I hate sports.
Especially kid sports.
I love the concept. Hard work. Determination. Pushing through pain. Teamwork. Discipline. Humility. I get it. I just hate it. The fresh air, the outside time, the water bottles. Gross. Nope. Not for me.
When people talk about how some groups are more privileged than others, I really think they overlook the kind of privilege that kids have when their parents like sports, even casually. Parents who watch football on the weekends, or install a basketball hoop, or like to kick a soccer ball around give their kids a huge athletic, health, and social advantage.
My kids are going into 8th grade and don't even know the rules of basketball.
"Mom, can I play pee-wee football?"
"Nope. Football's dumb."
"Ummm...injuries. And, um....concussions. And, um, Saturdays we have..." (I trail off as I walk briskly into the next room).
They did go into Little League for a season. While all of the good moms cheered from the bleachers and even had little backed-chair things for the benches, and fleece blankets with the Little League team logo, I sat in the office organizing my weekly meal plans. Every now and then someone would tell me my kid ran into home plate and I'd try to smile for their sake. They seemed so happy about it!
So I'm really glad we found the sport of Parkour, and specifically Firestorm Freerunning Gym in Orange County, California. When my husband deploys we often come back to my family's home in Orange County and the kids spend every day at this gym.
My boys had researched the sport of Parkour after trying to copy Daniel Craig's opening moves in Casino Royale. I still feel like we owe an apology to the City of Baltimore for what they unleashed on the Inner Harbor.
What is parkour? Well, I think it’s a combination of “running around like kids used to” and “angry Russian gymnasts being chased by angry Ukrainian gymnasts.”
While my kids are not yet *quite* to this caliber, the older one is getting really close to doing a pull-up from a dead hang and the younger one can do flips on a trampoline - so what I'm saying is, soon. They're like moderately teed off members of Pearl Jam pretending to be gymnasts.
The atmosphere at Firestorm is so positive and fun, but the coaches are dead-serious about their job. They talk to the kids about superhero moves and comic book characters as in "Okay now we're going to do this flip like the guy in Assassin's Creed" (The kids nod knowingly) but they are at heart very type-A professional athletes. They don't accept sloppy form. And woe to the kid who uses he knees to crawl over obstacles. THAT is not a mistake you make more than once.
The gym's curriculum involves a mix of strength and conditioning and calisthenics and applied technique in bars, floor mat, trampoline and vaulting. Changing obstacle courses require problem-solving and fast decision-making. It's physically very demanding and requires clear thinking and body awareness. And the kids fall a lot, so it gives them a lot of humility and patience and teaches the kids to support each other. It's hard to laugh at someone eating it when you are certain to eat it just as bad seconds later.
This gym also teaches the importance of stretching, safety and technique. Coaches remind the kids all the time to protect their knees ("Why?" the coaches ask every few minutes. "Because cartilage doesn't grow back" the unruly kids reply in perfect singsong unison).
I don't think my kids are going to graduate into competitive traceurs (as a parkour person is called) but I really hope they can take all of this discipline and humility and apply it to "2-Step Inequality Word Problems." It's a stretch, but I remain optimistic.