On Loving What You Do

It’s all fun and games until…

One of my kids is in a youth soccer league. She…isn’t good. She doesn’t pay attention, she rarely bothers kicking the ball, and while she can run with the best of them, she doesn’t really have any plan regarding what she should do when she gets to where she’s running. She is six years old, though, so none of this should really be a surprise. Her “skills” put her on par with about two-thirds of her teammates, most of whom run around the field in a loose pack and look for an opportunity to kick the ball in a direction (any direction), but don’t really want to get to close to anybody else or do anything too aggressive. Because of course they don’t – they’re little children.

This season, her coach is a guy who takes all this a bit too seriously. I mean, he isn’t hurling abuse at his players or anything truly unsportsmanlike, but you can tell he is genuinely distressed at the “level of play” (and I use that term well aware of how absurd it is) he’s seeing out there on the field. The other day, he gave me advice for improving my daughter’s “skills” for “home practice.”

“She needs to talk less and hustle more,” he said to me. “She needs to pay better attention.”

My answer was something along the lines of “my daughter is a bit of a daydreamer, so she doesn’t always pay attention.” I said it with a shrug and a chuckle, trying to make clear that I was unconcerned with the fact my kid sucks at soccer and that my interest in arranging “home practice” was effectively zero. I mean, if my six year old expressed any interest in practicing soccer at home, sure, sure – but she does not. Honestly, my wife and I were mystified that she wanted to play at all this season.

Picking up on my implications, the soccer coach grimaced and said, “Yeah, well, it’s all just fun at this age.”

That has stuck with me the last few weeks. Particularly the last part: at this age. I wanted to ask him at what age does soccer cease to be fun. When does this game stop being about enjoying yourself with friends and rivals as you kick a ball around a field on a sunny day and start being about something else? And what else is that? Money? Prestige? Fame? And even supposing soccer begins being about those things at some point, why should it ever stop being fun?

There are things in this world that are not necessarily enjoyable but are worthwhile in and of themselves. Nobody likes much of the work they need to do on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean you should stop grocery shopping or going to the doctor or bathing your kids. I don’t think there’s anybody out there saying you absolutely have to enjoy working out or dieting, but those things have results that we find satisfactory regardless of what we had to do achieve them.

But games? Games aren’t like that. There is nothing (nothing) so important about any sport or game that would mean you should continue to pursue it despite hating every second of it. I’d even go so far as to include art in this category. If you don’t enjoy some kind of art? Don’t consume it. If you hate a particular kind of story? Don’t write it. Unlike eating and sleeping and earning your daily wage, you don’t have do this.

The arts and entertainment world (of which sports are part) are important to our lives, but we get to choose how and when and in what proportion we consume them. We also get to choose how and when and if we participate in or create them. The experience itself should be enriching, not some ancillary benefit that comes after the fact. The proportion of people who make a full living off of the arts is approximately the same as those who make a living playing sports: the merest fraction of those who do it. You shouldn’t write stories because you think you will be rich or respected one day. Nor should you attend grueling double basketball practices because you think someday you’ll be in the Hall of Fame and it will all be worth it then. No. It has to be worth it now.

If you hate playing baseball, you should quit. If you despise painting, stop. If you are bored by poetry, find something else to read. Don’t let somebody (anybody) brow-beat you into believing your skill at this particular form of art/entertainment is essential for your self-worth or identity, because it isn’t. And anyway, the annals of people who hate playing a sport who then go on to become champions of that sport is a vanishingly small list – even smaller than that sliver of a percentage that go pro. You can’t hate-write a novel (or at least not a good one) because writing requires a kind of self-authenticity that weeds out the posers. When someone says to you “do what you love,” it’s not some kind of aspirational mantra, it’s practical advice.

So, no, my kid isn’t any good at soccer, but as long as she says she has fun doing it, I’ll keep signing her up for this little no-try-out local league. Likewise, so long as I like writing stories and novels, I’ll keep doing that too, no matter how much I suck.

Because where we end up should matter less than how fulfilling we find the journey. It should never stop being something we fundamentally love. If it does, then we are truly lost.

About aahabershaw

Writer, teacher, gaming enthusiast, and storyteller. I write stories, novels, and occasional rants.

Posted on September 23, 2019, in Critiques, Theories, and Random Thoughts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. nanette habershaw

    Violet is you only I was of your coaches mind set yes kids have fun but some people think it’s fun to win and get better at a skill at any age they actually love the game and the ins and outs of the game skills and tricks to win .Id recommend what I did stick it out this year so she doesn’t quit !! Try to explain what the game is about but Violet is only doing it to be with the kids and so many kids do this sport because it’s good for you ! It’s aerobic it teaches team work (Violet should try to do this ) and strategy it’s a game of this using your brain and body together in a social way to achieve a goal .Your kids Coach is not crazy he’s good he’s telling you how to help your kid but your kid is a out layer and artist !!! Just like her Dad only she sees that the cool kids do this so she wanted to also . Try to get her to work in the group for the one hr /day until this season I’ve it’s good for her ! We all need to understand how the world works other than ones self it’s called team work .Coach is normal you are different . How ever as parent you need to help your child understand the rest of the world and how most think .it will help her in school too ! She will never be a soccer star but she will be able to work together with people for a common goal . Yes they are kids but so much more learning is involved with this sport it’s about paying attention and working with others for a common goal . I had same frustration with you but make it a learning experience for her and change sport to something else later for now you are suppose to teach her commitment to your word I’m playing soccer this year so lido violet you must try to participate by rules it’s not a birthday party it’s a sport a skill of team work . Know your kid but try to help her get in touch with this concept !! She doesn’t have to do it next year but she made a commitment this year this is more important now ! Remember to compartment is to win !! You didn’t care to do anything be proud she wanted to try . From her loving grand mother sports are so much more that physical they are social cooperation and we all need to learn how to play nice together and give our all even if for a short time .She must pay attention it’s important life skill more than kicking the ball but she must try for her team !! I know you really don’t care but you should you are who you are because we made you do this for these reasons ! Learning is for all kids no matter what there Natural tendency’s are ! Learning about others in world helps her .also working together for a common goal is very important in life . It’s not that she will be a soccer star ! Try to listen to what Coach is telling you help Violet to hear him . This is what parents do help kids grow and understand more than them selves .🤞😘😍😎 Sent from my iPhone

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  2. kenneth c jackson jr

    Busted by your Mom, I love it. I agree with both you and Mom – Do I contradict myself?

    Very well then I contradict myself,

    (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

    WALT WHITMAN

    and fortunately for the world of scifi-fantasy readers, you DON’T suck as a writer. In fact I’m quite enjoying reading The Saga of the Redeemed, because of your deft construction of the world and the multi-faceted characters in it.
    As a grandparent myself, I get it Mom, but remember, you had a hand in shaping the kind of Dad Auston is, and now you have the opportunity to trust your own seeding and just sit back and enjoy those cute little acorns YOUR sapling has produced, and let him worry about all that watering and mulching stuff.
    Not a sermon, just an amused recognition of the intergenerational conversation.

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