From spectator to player: nurture your child’s sports aspirations

From spectator to player: nurture your child’s sports aspirations

My daughter loves to watch sports and the FIFA Women’s World Cup has my entire family buzzing. The fact that it’s being played on home turf in Canada has us even more excited. This level of enthusiasm about watching sports in our home is a fairly recent development and I was surprisingly late to notice it. For the past two years I’ve been trying to get my family off the couch and build a culture of movement for my children. So while I was out there trying to get my kids into playing sports, I didn’t realize my older one was already into watching.

It started last summer when she was eight with the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. One day she begged me to get out of a play date to watch a match. I should have noticed then, since she loves hanging out with her friends. Then came the heartfelt sorrow when her hero, Neymar, was injured on the field. I know she felt the anguish Brazil felt that day. My daughter spent the summer watching sports, but I still didn’t notice.

A few months later it was time for the Sochi Olympics and we watched the Dufour-Lapointe sisters sail through the air on a snowy hillside in Russia to double-medal glory. It finally hit me. But even then only after she started to quote from their story of hard work and talent. I think it took me a while because like many other South Asian families we weren’t really into playing regular sports, yet it seemed we were watching a fair bit.

My daughter has many heroes — from Helen Keller to Harry Potter, from Thea Stilton to Nancy Drew — it all depends on the book she is reading. She already knows if she can read it she can be it. That’s why in her dreams she’s a geologist, a detective, a writer … even an archaeologist. Now I want those dreams to include sports, and watching sports may be the first step towards realizing that if she can watch it she can play it.

I was thrilled when I started to see a change with her interest in badminton after we watched Saina Nehwal, a top-ranked Indian badminton player, win the Australian Open. For months afterwards we were playing badminton in the backyard.

And if watching sports will help move us in more ways than one, then guess what my family and I will be doing this month? Yes, you will see us following the Women’s World Cup on TV, in the newspaper, on the computer, and on every other device possible, cheering on Christine Sinclair, Rhian Wilkinson, and Josée Bélanger as they make quick work of the opposition.

I want my kids to be a part of this athletic experience even if it’s just as spectators. The teamwork, the discipline, and the spirit that are required to win at soccer transcend gender. I’ve already started talking about the tournament with my daughters and that’s something any parent can do. Our children need heroes and they will be on the soccer pitch in droves.

Some of the best athletes in the world are getting together to play and fight it out, and there will be blood, sweat, and tears as they battle for every goal on the field. And maybe, just maybe, my kids can go from loving to watch sports to wanting to play them all the time.

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