As it relates to sports, I was always a fantastic spectator. Growing up with a sports fanatic brother and hanging out with a best friend who introduced me to the bleacher seats at baseball games undoubtedly had something to do with it. I was caught up in the Montreal Expos’ first (and only) playoffs appearance in 1981; I went to watch the Montreal Alouettes practices; I followed the SF 49ers during the Joe Montana/Jerry Rice era (what an era!); I was at the Canadiens’ (last) Stanley Cup parade in front of The Bay on Ste-Catherine St. in 1986; I loved the Scotty Bowman days of the Stanley-Cup winning Detroit Red Wings (’97-’98). Incredible fan moments.
But ask me to play a sport? That’s a whole other ball game.
With a Chinese upbringing, athletics were not entirely encouraged, and certainly not of girls! So I think I think I became a poor athlete as a self-fulfilling prophecy. I was never led to believe I even had the ability, and where I might have shown some hint of potential, if I didn’t achieve to my own expectations, I saw myself as a complete athletic failure. That all stemmed from the academic expectations of my parents. If I didn’t get A’s, it was a disappointment. To Asian parents, it’s never about “the journey”; it’s all about the end game.
In elementary school, while running sprints during gym class one day, my gym teacher clocked my time and asked me to join the track and field team. At the meet, I didn’t even show in the individual sprint, and our relay team came in a disappointing second place – I was the slowest runner of the bunch and lost our lead. Getting the A’s was easy for me; not “winning” in sports was devastating to me.
So in high school, when my phys. ed. teacher asked me to consider participating in the high jump event on the track team, I immediately declined, so anxious about disappointing her and the school if I faltered under pressure and would again have to face the agonizing embarrassment of not having performed to (my) expectations.
This is not how I want DQ to grow up. I want her to enjoy athletics of all forms. I’d love it if she excelled in anything, but really, more than anything, I just want her to enjoy participating. When I see teenagers out for a run, I feel full admiration that they clearly just want to be out there, and I want DQ to be active because she likes to be.
As a result, in playing any sports with her, I have become less self-conscious about my own “performance” abilities, and more focused on the technique that will lead to the home runs, the goals, the perfect shot. I have come to realize that in my youth, when it came to sports, I was too hung up on the finish line and didn’t pay any attention on how to get there. I never had any interest in picking up a bat or a baseball mitt; now, I love practicing T-ball with DQ. I had never had any interest in learning downhill skiing; now, DQ and I start lessons in January and I’m excited about it!
Much of it has to do with FuBu who loves physical activity and can’t go a day without some form or exercise. It’s his enthusiasm that makes him such a great encouragement to both DQ and to myself. He doesn’t judge our ability; he teaches us technique and cheers us on regardless of where the ball ends up. He has shown me that Vince Lombardi was wrong when he said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Lombardi couldn’t have possibly had a really fun life.
I can’t turn back the clock, but I hope that I can be an equally good source of encouragement for DQ’s athletic pursuits, whatever they might be. Early indications are pretty good: she can run circles around me (literally, she just loves to run around in circles).