“I don’t want to do sports, just practice.”
Ari used to say this often some 6 months ago, when we were scouting for a sports training activity that would serve as his P.E. class in bahaySKUL. By “doing sports” he meant competing and losing eventually, and this has become a deep fear that he has struggled with for a time.
While children are natural daredevils, they are also inherently scared of the unknown. Ari is one scaredy cat when it comes to trying new things. And it took a lot of convincing before we could bring him to a taekwondo trial class at a local gym. When he finally agreed to try taekwondo, it wasn’t a “love at first try” kind of experience. But it was enough to prove to him that sports isn’t something to be afraid of.
So training day after training day, he grew to love the sport. He realized that taekwondo is something he could actually be good at, with his strength and stamina. He made new friends, and they were, in fact, the only ones he wanted to invite to his most recent birthday party. He adored his training coach, and he had fun learning new skills from him. He learned discipline and being on time. And he has grown a stronger body, with the physical demands of the training.
But to me the greatest benefit we’ve seen from this experience is Ari building solid confidence—he now knows that he can do more things than he thought he could do, and more importantly, that he can better himself the more times he tried.
As with most other sports, taekwondo has levels, from white belt to the famed black belt. To upgrade to the next belt, he needs to go through and pass a promotion test administered by a Master. His first promo test was nerve-wracking for our entire family. We practiced with Ari so he could master his forms and kicks. We were at the testing venue hours before, and even made a field trip out of it. Our greatest fear was that he wouldn’t pass the test and he would be devastated and trash all the gains from his taekwondo training. (Talk about negativity for parents claiming to be optimistic!)
But it so happened that the test turned out to be a gainful experience for everyone, not just Ari. We, as parents, have learned that getting a child into sports takes some real motivation and support, and that this shouldn’t end once we hand them over to their respective coaches and trainers. From setting aside resources to pay for training and equipment, to giving time to drive them to the gym, to consoling and wiping off tears after your child takes a sparring hit. But for Ari, it was a magical transformation indeed. From being too afraid to try anything, he now convinces us to send him to the next promotion test because he knows he’s gotten better, and he will continue to get better if he keeps trying. There is a kind of confidence and assurance that he need not get from us, but that he has realized and lives up to on his own.