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To Participate Or Not to Participate

  • Posted on May 3, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Willy’s school is holding a triathlon with the following mission:

“[School Name] Middle School is committed to supporting the health, safety and welfare of our (sic) all of our students.  This 1st Annual Iron [Name of School Mascot] Triathlon is an event to challenge students physically to be their very best!”

Willy was psyched.  He really wanted to participate.  He’s already sold on the message that he needs to eat right and exercise, and to him this seemed like a great way to be physically fit.  I wasn’t so sure.

Now, admittedly, the school was already wise enough to create tiers of participation:

  • The Fun Heat
  • The Competitive Heat.

But, both include swimming, biking, and running.  That is, after all, what makes it a triathlon.

There are kids that are naturally adept at athletics and there are kids who are not.  Willy is one of the latter.  He gets that from both his father and I—a double-whammy.  Granted, he’s an improvement on both of us, because he’s far more motivated and works harder than either of us ever really did.  But the gains he sees for his efforts are less than the gains a child with natural athletic abilities would see.

For example, Willy enjoys swimming, but his skills are still very rudimentary.  Simply put, we’re still working on the not drowning thing.  He’s not ready to work on distance or endurance, let alone speed.

Biking is a different matter.  Honestly, I don’t know how skilled of a biker he is, because we have never provided our children with bicycles.  Considering the danger of wandering, providing our children with extra speed and mobility never seemed like a good idea.  He has, however, done some bike riding at school, but I’m not even sure he can balance on a two-wheeler.

Running is something Willy does.  So, there’s that.

I didn’t like it.  I was not at all comfortable with the swimming portion and I had no idea of whether he could ride a bike well enough.  I was tempted to say no and leave it at that, but I wavered because he was so enthusiastic.

I worried, too, though.  It was more than his immediate safety at stake.  Sure, he wanted to participate in the Fun Heat.  Sure, he wasn’t trying to be competitive, so when he didn’t win he wouldn’t be crushed.  But, in my mind, I kept thinking about whether participation would be setting him up for some serious, confidence-destroying teasing or worse.

I thought about it until long after the training was supposed to start, and so I figured it was a mute issue.  Then, I got a call.  The liaison for the school, the one who is the go-to person for Willy’s special education accommodations, called to let me know that Willy was still talking about it, still wanting to participate, and that the staff involved had concerns (though, they didn’t know that I shared them until she called).  Nobody wanted to come out and tell Willy he couldn’t participate, because that wasn’t the message that anyone wanted to send him.  But nobody wanted to set him up to fail, either.

To Be Continued…

Bowling Update

  • Posted on December 9, 2011 at 8:00 AM

Did I tell y’all that Willy is bowling now? He joined a league and everything! I know I mentioned it on Facebook, but I don’t know where all I’ve said it, so if this is news, I’m sorry. That’s the trouble with multiple platforms, I guess.

Bowling is an interesting sport. Not only do you have your special shoes and your mysterious rules, but you’re playing this sport in a neon-lit whirligig of activity. You switch lanes every other turn. People mill around you socializing. Other bowlers shout out their victories or bemoan their failures.

Then, there are the social aspects: interactions between teammates and between teams, comments from parents and spectators, directions from the coach to the kids. And there are the physical aspects: the weight of the ball in his hand, the sequence of steps which is more complicated than it seems, and the need to heft, to swing, to aim, and to release. And then there’s the lingo: strikes and spares, pickups, and gutter balls…I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all I’ve picked up so far.

This is a complex little microcosm that Willy has scuttled into. And I’m at something of a loss on how to help. Suffice it to say that I can’t teach Willy to bowl. Though, I do observe what other players are doing and what Willy’s not, and the results of those differences. Like, every time he points his thumb at the gutter right as he releases the ball, the ball goes straight into the gutter before it gets even halfway down the lane. This, if you weren’t aware, is not a desired result. So, I try to advise Willy on that angle. But mostly I just encourage him and try to pick up what I can from the helpful people around me.

Willy’s talked about quitting once, though it was after a four-day weekend, too little sleep, and the challenges of re-adjusting to his schedule. By the time he came home, he decided he wanted to stick with it, but that he really wanted me there. I wasn’t looking for another time commitment, and I really don’t feel very useful, but if it helps him in some small way…then I guess I’m going bowling. Just not for the actual bowling part of it.