Learning New Sports

Yes, of course I will get to Spain, but I need a little time. We’re still recovering from our trip, and it’s better if I get organized and ask the girls about their favorite memories and wait until Cute W’s sorted his photos and all of that.

I’ve been talking about the girls’ new sports, but it’s funny, because there’s absolutely a learning curve for all of us. But that’s good! We’re evolving.

J’s been focusing on volleyball, of course, but she’s also been diving. Several weeks ago I thought that she was going to compete in a meet, which meant I ordered her a team swimsuit. The coach had specifically said to be careful about sizing because it would be confusing, and of course once you put the team logo on the suit, you can’t return it.

Well, I swear I was careful, and I examined the sizing charts and diligently measured J. But I must have done something very, very wrong, because when I pulled the swimsuit out of its package, it was basically, like, a suit to fit an American Girl doll. But, you know, swimsuits and workout clothes can be deceiving, so I gave it to J and said, “Umm, I think that this is probably way too teensy, but maybe they stretch out a ton? I have no idea.” Sadly, even if it were stretched to its limit, it would have been way too small. I ended up giving it to the coach on the off chance that he recruits, like, a deeply talented preschooler.

The silver lining to this misadventure was that I finally became aware of the existence of the store The Deep End in Latham. How had nobody told me about this place? Really, swim parents, you should be sharing this information!! Years ago a swimming mom told me about Dolfin Uglies, which are the super-sensible and long-lasting one-piece suits with fun patterns preferred by my kids. Since I heard about them we’ve been schlepping over to Dick’s, and usually between the Dolfin Uglies and the Speedos, we’re able to find something each year that the girls like and that fits them, but the selection is never huge. So imagine my surprise when I walked into this small store just completely packed with one piece suits.

You really can’t get the full idea from this one quick picture I took, but do you see how, in the background under the window, there are those big plastic tubs? Those tubs are filled with even more suits in baggies. There are a ton of choices there! It is my new go-to, one-stop-shopping-spot for swimsuits for the girls. And the lady was very nice, too. I didn’t notice that I’d accidentally ordered a doll’s suit while I was in the store. If we end up re-ordering a new team suit, I’m just going to bring J into the store and throw us on their gentle mercies so I don’t screw it up again.

And yes, I said if. I’m not sure quite where we are on diving, because we’ve been busy and the priority has definitely been volleyball. But the reason why she didn’t do that diving meet is because it was a bit too last-minute for her tastes.  She didn’t feel prepared enough for that diving meet, and the others that have been scheduled since always seem to be happening when we’ve already got other plans. So we’ll see what happens. J is used to training literally for months on the same routine for gymnastics meets, and she likes to feel super-prepared.

Doing all of that gymnastics training was terrific for her. It taught her so much discipline and persistence, and it helped her set long term goals and work toward them. Those are excellent skills.

But what I love about volleyball is that it feels like a polar opposite sport. Playing volleyball is super fast-paced and feels much more direct, both in terms of working with her teammates and competing against others. And whether she does something incredibly awesome or she completely screws something up, that moment passes and the next point is sort of a whole new point. As much as it was great for her to work hard to really perfect a gymnastics routine, it feels almost like another stage of J’s evolution to learn how to react and shake things off and move on to something else, which is an even more important skill for her slightly obsessive personality. Yes, there’s still the more long term effort, like getting a consistent serve, and then trying to get a consistent-as-well-as-tough-to-return serve, but it’s less tense. And the games are fun to watch.

Meanwhile, M’s evolving, too. One thing that has surprised me is how unbelievably disciplined M is about track. I’m not sure if it’s the running itself or if it’s the fact that the track coach is organized enough to distribute a specific training plan. Like, if the soccer coach sent out a homework list of footwork drills, would she be doing that, too? I have no idea. Whatever’s going on, M was such a track machine that she went for five runs while we were away in Spain. And since she was a teenage girl running in an unfamiliar foreign city, that meant Cute W went for five runs while we were away in Spain. The poor guy! I mean, we walked around a ton, and that on its own is exhausting. I had just assumed that walking most of the day would be plenty of exercise for us all, but I was wrong. I honestly don’t know how he managed to keep up with her. And I use the term “keep up with her” very loosely, here, because she would often run ahead and double back to him, gazelle-like. Her dedication is amazing, especially since this is a pretty new pursuit, and it’s extended to everything, like making sure she sleeps enough and hydrates and eats well. Her body is a temple.

Along with the sports themselves, there are all sorts of attendant rituals. We watched M’s first outdoor track meet before we headed out of town, and it was funny because all of the parents started talking about which take-out they were getting for dinner that night. It seems like pretty much a track culture thing that all of the parents just pick up food on track meet days, I guess because the meets can last forever. Meanwhile for volleyball tournaments we’ve learned that everyone brings blankets and chairs to “camp out” in the hallways outside of the gyms, and the most on-the-ball parents bring something in a slow cooker. For her first few meets, M just discarded the number stickers that she slaps on her thigh for race time. Once, she left it on her jersey and it went through the wash, and it was a major project to remove all the sticky stuff. Now M ritualistically saves the stickers, and I notice other track kids walking around with folders or bags covered with numbers. The girls are settling into their new sports subcultures, and we’re along for the ride.


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