Sunday, May 21, 2006

end of the school year

My son is home from his first year (9th grade) at boarding school. He did suprisingly well from the start being away from home, but he had a tough time with the academic adjustment. He has pulled his grade point average up from a 1.98 for the first quarter to a 2.6 in the middle of the fourth quarter--the final grades aren't posted but I think may be above a 3.0 (update: his GPA for the fourth quarter was a 2.93).

Saturday night at the awards banquet, my son received a headmaster's commendation. The headmaster told the story as follows (except I have edited out my son's name):
P is a rising sophomore from Clemson S.C. He harbored a burning desire to play on the tennis team this year and focused on it all year long. However, in the early spring he was cut from the team. A disappointment, no doubt. But, as luck would have it, there came an opportunity for him to become the team’s manager. Eventually he was given a chance to practice with the team. He never missed practice and worked hard and faithfully. He played in his second competitive match against our vaunted rival, Asheville School. He won. He called home that night and could barely disguise his delight. He later played in another match against Spartanburg Day and won yet again. Here’s to P for never accepting defeat.

The part of the story that the headmaster didn't tell is that when my son reported he was going to be cut from the tennis team, I wrote an email saying (slightly edited):
One of the reasons we picked Christ School is because we were given to understand that athletics were emphasized, but you didn't have to be good at a sport to be involved. My son loves a number of sports--probably the thing he most looked forward to as he started at Christ School was playing soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, and tennis in the spring. However,... he is not talented in athletics. He has done a good job of coming to terms with this and enjoying sports even if he isn't a strong player. He had a particularly good experience in soccer in the fall; he not only felt a part of the team but saw that hard work led to improvement.

My son has been interested in tennis for several years and went to three weeks of tennis camp last summer and the summer before. My husband and I do not play tennis so this was brave thing he chose to do--to go to the Clemson University coaches' tennis camps pretty much as a beginner. Learning to play tennis is something he really cares about, but he hasn't had the chance to get very far. It would be a big disappointment for him not to be able to play tennis as his spring sport...

My understanding in the fall was that signing up for sports was first come first served.... But what I hear from my son about tennis makes it sound like it is being handled in a different way--that if you aren't already good at a sport you can't play it. That seems like the wrong approach, particularly to tennis which is such a lifelong sport.

If I have understood the situation correctly I urge you to think carefully about your philosophy for boys who love sports that they aren't good at. To me, it is very important that my children are encouraged to enjoy sports even if they aren't talented. I have had to struggle myself to get past what I was taught as a child about leaving sports to those who are good at them (I was so happy and so proud of myself for running my first half marathon a month ago, even though it took me three hours and I finished 90th out of 93).
I didn't get a reply to my email, but my son got his chance. And the wonderful thing is he took advantage of it.

No comments: