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3:33 Sports Short #16 // Sports are Fun? by Theressa Slind

The 3:33 Sports Shorts are back! We're kicking off this week with two posts that explore one of sports' most consistent bedfellows: anger! In this post Theressa Slind talks about raising a daughter who plays sports for *gasp*... fun. Click here to read Rob Stephens's post about the (occasionally) rigteous anger that sports fans direct at referees.

I twitch as my daughter hovers, bouncing from one leg to the other, at the edge of the four-on-four soccer scrum. I want to shout “Get in there! Get the ball!”, but she’s only six, this is community association soccer, and there are other adults present. Plus, she’s being the polite girl we’ve taught her to be, respecting her peers’ boundaries, trying not to hurt, staying safe, sharing. “Kill ’em!” is the phrase that comes to mind. At least she’s not the girl with a fist-full of dandelions, twirling at the other end of the field.

What to offer her in terms of sport? My partner and I both grew up in rural Saskatchewan. The only organized sports in the winter revolved around the rink: hockey, figure skating, curling. In the spring we played ball, which meant baseball. In the summer I swam in a lake and he golfed. Don’t think country club. And of course there was the unorganized Wild West of the school playground. Strangely, soccer was a winter sport, the field snow-packed and borderless, the rules flexible. We now live in a city with a comparatively infinite choice of sports in which to enroll our girl, and we are overwhelmed, falling back on the principles of the crowd (soccer), proximity to home (gymnastics), and survival (swimming lessons). 

But we both played sports fiercely, passionately. I remember my gym teacher pointing me out to the rest of the class, still sprawled after sacrificing my body to defend the net in floor hockey. “Look at Theressa, everyone. That’s the kind of effort I want to see, people!” And my partner has been known to engage in the odd hockey fight. How did we create this non-competitive little girl? She seems to be having fun. Is fun really the point?

Our daughter emphasizes the comedy and drama in sport. In her gymnastics class, in lieu of controlled landings, she prefers the dramatic flop and groan. She fakes extreme fatigue when she’s bored, panting and swaying, like a loose-limbed drunk. She’ll excel at the soccer dive. And then there’s the sheer joy of jumping and running when your body is new and fit. “But Mommy, you can’t run,” she said me one day. Oh, yeah? I’ll beat you in a foot race, twerp.

And I find her sporting life funny, too, even as I expect her to take it seriously. There is no better physical comedy than at the end of a community soccer game when the entire roster of both teams tumble onto the field and buzz en masse around a ball. Sometimes the ball squirts out of the pack and comes to rest before any of the players notice.

So, for now, I enjoy children’s sport for its comedic potential. Reason enough to play. Reason enough to have a kid, really. For me, sport was life or death; for her, sport is fun: let’s play rather than kill ’em. Crazy.

Theressa Slind is a librarian and beginning writer from Saskatoon, Canada. Her fiction has appeared in Grain and paperplates.