Sunday, July 24, 2005

Sports and Kids

I attended my nephew's cycling race this morning, and had a fun time watching kids "play(?)." Physically, cycling seems like a healthy sport for kids. It was great to watch the cyclists speed by, hear relatives cheer, and see the officials hard at work with lap counters, stop watches, and finish line cameras. Where else is it OK for a kid to go so fast? Yet, even this kids' sports appeared to bring out a competitive and exclusive side of life for the cyclists.

I have no children. I have never walked in the land of opportunity for children who wish to excel in a sport. My parents encouraged me to try a variety of experiences through their words, signing me up, paying fees, sending me to camp, and driving me to lessons, practice, etc. I just don't recall the level of attitude intensity and sports expertise that kids today can access in certain communities.

I am amazed at the equipment, special items, uniforms, and fees to join some organized sport activities. In a different day and place, we just met in the backyards with a can to kick. I am also stunned by the impact the demands of these activities have on family schedules and wallets. It appears that if your child gets to high school, and then takes an interest in a sport, the chance to succeed in that sport may be gone. Too late to catch up with peers who listened to training songs while yet in the womb!

My question is how does a parent keep perspective on a healthy competitive edge? When does a parent ooze on over to a whatever-it-takes no-matter-the cost my-child-above-all-others mentality? Today, I heard comments from parents standing near me or walking by me that seemed too intense for me (excluding my own relatives, naturally). When does a child lose their sense of childhood and morph into a sports machine, with proud parents pushing so hard that friends are alienated?

In this summer's movie "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," there is a humorous example of a mother-daughter competitive duo that is an example of this over-the-top spirit and drive. It is an exaggeration, but I almost felt I'd met some similarly focused parents. Maybe I'm just too in favor of a different speed of childhood. I am not very competitive, and that might be the basis of my discomfort, too. However, how do parents keep the universe revolving around what really counts, not just around this season's sports schedule and coach's demands?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Tour de France Blues

(or shall I say "bleues" Oui?)

Each July, for the past few years, my schedule revolves around the OLN broadcast of the Tour de France. I wake up to it. I go to bed to the re-broadcast of the day's stage. I hang on every well-turned descriptive phrase and witty remark of Phil, Paul, Bob, and Al as they do the non-stop announcing. I thrill at the competition, shudder at the climbs, panic through the mobs of fans on narrow passages, laugh at the clever commercials, and find refreshment in the scenery, villages, and behind the scenes extras. I eat French Toast for breakfast during Stage 1. My vocabulary now includes phrases such as "reach deep into the suitcase of courage." I feel at a loss when it all ends in Paris, though exhausted from the stress of who will win and all the nuances and strategies of how that is calculated and achieved.

As former American football fan who has switched her loyalties, I now fully appreciate the athleticism of cyclists and have developed a distaste for the body slamming shoving of a small orb across merely maybe 100 yards on a flat surface, with an occasional kick. Football has lost its appeal.

I am grateful to Lance Armstrong for the skill and character he has displayed, the thrills and chills that has brought to our house, and the education I have gotten just watching this event over three years. I am grateful when the other riders excel, too, making it all the more spellbinding.

I acknowledge how it has impacted the way I handle personal challenges. I had a difficult challenge on Saturday in my kayaking class. I had to get back in the kayak from deep water. I am not an athlete, though I love the water. This was a very hard task for me. I kept at it and said aloud, "There are tougher things than this!" My instructor asked if I'd had children, and I said, "No, riding a bike in the Pyrennes." And I did get in the kayak eventually, but it was a big struggle. And I didn't bonk.

On Sunday, July 24, it all ends for another year. Back to my normal routine. Sigh. Thank you to everyone involved in making it a great event to share via broadcast. I will miss the Tour de France and look forward to watching again next summer, and I'll be looking for a bold new leader to emerge as Lance Armstrong retires.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Starting Out

Welcome! I am a rookie at having a Blog, so this will be an adventure. Watch it grow. Stop in again sometime soon.