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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Birthday<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_date'> <input name='input_1' id='input_10_1' type='text' value='' class='datepicker mdy datepicker_no_icon gdatepicker-no-icon' placeholder='mm/dd/yyyy' aria-describedby="input_10_1_date_format" aria-invalid="false" aria-required="true"/> <span id='input_10_1_date_format' class='screen-reader-text'>MM slash DD slash YYYY</span> </div> <input type='hidden' id='gforms_calendar_icon_input_10_1' class='gform_hidden' value='https://activeforlife.com/content/plugins/gravityforms/images/datepicker/datepicker.svg'/></div><div id="field_10_13" class="gfield gfield--width-full gfield_html gfield_html_formatted gfield_no_follows_desc field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><p>Only one kid per email address.</p> <p>Active Start is for children 4 and younger.</p></div><div id="field_10_4" class="gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_hidden" ><div class='admin-hidden-markup'><i class='gform-icon gform-icon--hidden'></i><span>Hidden</span></div><label class='gfield_label' for='input_10_4' >Age When Submitted</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_10_4' type='text' value='' class='medium' aria-invalid="false" /> </div></div><div id="field_10_5" class="gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_hidden" ><div class='admin-hidden-markup'><i class='gform-icon gform-icon--hidden'></i><span>Hidden</span></div><label class='gfield_label' for='input_10_5' >1st Birthday</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_10_5' type='text' value='' class='medium' aria-invalid="false" /> </div></div><div id="field_10_6" class="gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_hidden" ><div class='admin-hidden-markup'><i class='gform-icon gform-icon--hidden'></i><span>Hidden</span></div><label class='gfield_label' for='input_10_6' >2nd Birthday</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_6' id='input_10_6' type='text' value='' class='medium' aria-invalid="false" /> </div></div><div id="field_10_7" class="gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_hidden" ><div class='admin-hidden-markup'><i class='gform-icon gform-icon--hidden'></i><span>Hidden</span></div><label class='gfield_label' for='input_10_7' >3rd Birthday</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_7' id='input_10_7' type='text' value='' class='medium' aria-invalid="false" /> </div></div><div id="field_10_8" class="gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_hidden" ><div class='admin-hidden-markup'><i class='gform-icon gform-icon--hidden'></i><span>Hidden</span></div><label class='gfield_label' for='input_10_8' >4th Birthday</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_8' id='input_10_8' type='text' value='' class='medium' aria-invalid="false" /> </div></div><div id="field_10_9" class="gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_hidden" ><div class='admin-hidden-markup'><i class='gform-icon gform-icon--hidden'></i><span>Hidden</span></div><label class='gfield_label' for='input_10_9' >5th Birthday</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_9' id='input_10_9' type='text' value='' class='medium' aria-invalid="false" /> </div></div></div></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_10' class='gform_button button' value='Submit' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_10"]){return false;} window["gf_submitting_10"]=true; ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_10"]){return false;} window["gf_submitting_10"]=true; 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name="ak_js" value="39"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div> <iframe style='display:none;width:0px;height:0px;' src='about:blank' name='gform_ajax_frame_10' id='gform_ajax_frame_10' title='This iframe contains the logic required to handle Ajax powered Gravity Forms.'></iframe> <script type='text/javascript'>gform.initializeOnLoaded( function() {gformInitSpinner( 10, 'https://activeforlife.com/content/plugins/gravityforms/images/spinner.svg' );jQuery('#gform_ajax_frame_10').on('load',function(){var contents = jQuery(this).contents().find('*').html();var is_postback = contents.indexOf('GF_AJAX_POSTBACK') >= 0;if(!is_postback){return;}var form_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_wrapper_10');var is_confirmation = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_confirmation_wrapper_10').length > 0;var is_redirect = contents.indexOf('gformRedirect(){') >= 0;var is_form = form_content.length > 0 && ! 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