Today, I'm blogging in a different voice, and with a different tone. Today, I am a parent, a former middle school travel basketball coach, and the former director of the same program. It's in that role I blog today for the National Women's Law Center's Rally for Girls' Sports Day. You see, I have a 15 year old daughter. She loved basketball from early on. I coached her when she was little...probably from the time she was 6 or 7, up through the time she was around 13.
When she was 8, in an attempt to "do the right thing" for her, like so many of us parents try to do, I entered her on a U-10 AAU basketball team. The team was outstanding, and in fact went to Nationals that year. She barely played; she was too young in hindsight, and not ready athletically or emotionally. She returned the next year, with the same result, including another trip to Nationals, and still very little playing time. The next year, when she would have finally been age appropriate, she didn't want to play AAU anymore.
She played town travel basketball, and excelled early on, but she grew less and less interested. I stopped coaching her, brought in someone else for the team, figuring maybe that would bring back the love. She even played on the freshman team in high school last year, but this year, she didn't even want to try out for JV or Varsity. She didn't like playing anymore.
You see, what I learned, too late for basketball, is that girls play sports for different reasons than boys. They want to have fun, not just win. They want to be with their friends, not just compete. And as parents, it is our responsibility to cultivate and encourage those aspects of team sports. It's not just trying to excel in the sport that matters. It's about having fun, staying in shape, bonding with teammates, and meeting new friends on other teams.
Not everyone can be Maya Moore. And they don't have to be. So now my daughter enjoys playing volleyball and lacrosse. I am proud of her, that she is out there playing and having fun. She could have tried out for a higher level club volleyball team that practices three times a week, but she wanted to try for the team that plays on Sundays only, because her friends are playing on that team. And I am totally okay with that.
I love basketball. Am I disappointed my daughter doesn't play anymore? Sure I am. But I consider the lesson learned, and hopefully what I can share with you, to be so valuable, I'll accept that trade off. Who knows, maybe she'll play intramurals or even decide next year she wants to play again. A year off worked for Elena Delle Donne, after all. And if not, we can still watch UConn games together.
So as you encourage your daughters, nieces, and friends' children to play sports, I hope you remember a little of my story, and remember there is so much to gain from just being out there and playing the game. They don't have to be superstars, but they will surely gain a whole lot from being a participant.