Shawn Carr’s daughter, Madison, is a smart kid, who spends plenty of time skiing and camping with her family.
But a few years ago, during a parent-teacher interview in elementary school, Carr brought up Madison’s self-esteem. Was she happy at school? Was she fitting in?
Yes, said her then-teacher, Sue Moleski, who currently teaches Grade 5 at Banff Elementary School. She wasn’t concerned at all about Madison’s academic performance.
But Moleski was concerned that the young girl couldn’t throw a ball.
“She needs to learn how to catch and throw, I said. That’s her homework,” recalls Moleski with a laugh.
“Learning is not just about spelling and math facts.”
The news came as a bit of a shock to Carr. From his perspective, his family was pretty active. He was embarrassed to think that Madison didn’t have all the skills she needed to be confident in gym class.
“I was a little pink in the face, I guess,” says the Banff, AB dad. “I mean, we go cross-country skiing. We downhill ski a lot. We go camping all the time.”
But they didn’t typically do sports that require good hand-eye coordination.
“She loves phys ed, but she was feeling a little delicate about tossing a ball back and forth,” Carr recalls. “Her hand-eye coordination just wasn’t there.”
Carr set out to change the situation. He put a big box of gear by the front door and now, every time they go somewhere, balls go with them — “baseballs, gloves, Frisbees, footballs, soccer balls. Now we do those things to pass the time in the afternoon at the campground,” he says.
“We just started by throwing a ball or kicking a ball, maybe throwing a Frisbee.”
Before long, it was just a natural part of their family gatherings, just like skiing and cycling.
Since those first few months, he’s also added badminton rackets to their collection, and last summer, he installed a basketball hoop out front of their home.
So far, so good. Madison is thriving at school, and her academic performance is better than ever. “She’s smart and lovely and organized and nice,” says Moleski.
And now she can throw a ball, too.
“As teachers, we also pay attention to life skills,” Moleski says.
“When she’s 40-years-old, she might want to play slow-pitch. And even if she doesn’t, she will want to catch the ball if someone throws one at her.”
As for Carr, he says his conversation with Moleski was an important lesson for him as a dad to remember the simple things. “Just the simplicity of tossing a ball around,” he says.
“You see fathers and sons throwing a baseball back and forth, or throwing a football all the time in movies and on TV, wherever.
“But it should be done with a father and daughter as well at that early age. Don’t wait for it to happen in junior high.”
And a bonus? Carr says his entire family has been having a good time. “You forget as you get older just how much fun it is to throw a ball around.”