The love for sports runs thick through my big Greek family. My dad was a wrestler and football player, my mom was an alternate for the Olympics in swimming, my sister, nephews, and cousins all played college sports. I played lacrosse and volleyball in high school, and while that’s where my personal athletic career ended, my passion for sports stayed with me. I grew up imagining my ancient Greek ancestors racing chariots or throwing javelins in the original Olympics.
From the time I was very young, my dad instilled in me a competitive drive. His tactics sometimes left me scratching my head like his rule: “Dinner first..milk after.” His philosophy was that we wouldn’t need to come off the field for water breaks as often if we didn’t eat and drink at the same time. Like all impressionable kids, I never questioned it.
As a mother, I find myself wanting to foster that same competitiveness in my four and a half year old son. When we signed him up for soccer at the age of 36 months, I’m not sure what I expected, but here’s how it went down: while the other kids followed the coach’s directions, Owen would randomly sit down, or find a clump of dirt to kick, or run to another team’s field to kick their ball. I would urge him to “get back in there,” but my pleas fell on deaf ears. Once when I buried my head in slight embarrassment, I looked up only to find that he had wandered over to the jungle gym. Last year, we took a hiatus from sports.
As fall rolled around this year, my inner athlete told me to sign him up again. Even with visions of Owen kicking the ball into the opposing team’s goal, I mustered enough courage to fill out the registration form. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen how excited he gets watching his cousins, who he pretty much idolizes, play football and lacrosse.
Neill, Nathan, Nicholas, & Owen after a UMBC Lacrosse Game
If I’m being totally honest, what seems to interest Owen the most about their games is all the ceremony — the uniforms, the bleachers, the high fives between players. So imagine his excitement when I came home with his team shirts, knee socks, and shin guards. I barely had them out of the bag before he was all geared up, and practice wasn’t for another few days. He even convinced me to let him wear the entire uniform to school the next day. How could I say no?
Owen all suited up
His excitement continued right up to the first practice. As he asked the coach if it was time to play, my stomach twisted a little at the thought of him running off to the playground mid-practice. Then I reminded myself to just chill out. Not sure if that had anything to do with it, but Owen seemed genuinely interested in listening to the coach, and as a result, he did pretty well. He may not have “gone for the ball” every time or “kicked it to the goal” on each possession, but he had so much FUN! Every time he touched the ball with his feet (or hands) he would look over and give me a thumbs up.