What’s a jock to do?

One of the great surprises of my adult life is that I have become a breeder of jocks. I blame their mother.

I can’t even attribute this turn of events to the fulfillment of my unrealized dreams. If I were that kind of father, I’d be waking the kids at 6 a.m. to sketch out comic strip ideas before breakfast.

Jim Unger is what?”

“Promise squandered!” they’d chant.

Bloom County in its day was…”

“A Breathed of fresh air!”

“Excellent. Now drop and give me three New Yorker panels and a Walt Kelly!”

For a soft-shelled artsy type like me to end up with children who not only love but excel at sports has been a great joy. Sure, getting my son to read is like pulling teeth, and those teeth are really pointy and spitting venom and dull with the brownish-yellow coat of neglect, but I sit in the bleachers amazed by the grace of my children’s coordination, their ability to hit the basket from outside or the way they can make that perfect pass through traffic to the post and – hey, look at me knowing about sports and stuff!

My two middle children in particular have thrived in high school thanks in large part to their involvement in sports – soccer, basketball, rugby. My wife and I have been involved and encouraging. Sports have kept them healthy, motivated and, most important, out of trouble.

But both children are thinking, well, what now?

In high school I was good at drama and music, so I chose those over sports – aw, who am I kidding? I sucked at sports, but go with this for a moment.

I had no idea what I was going to do after high school, or after my BA for that matter. But with a solid liberal arts education and a lot of extracurricular involvement in drama and campus journalism, I picked up enough skills, knowledge and the ability to pad a resumé to BS my way into the work force. And here I am: still faking it after all these years.

My eldest daughter is taking the broad road as well and, though she appears to be majoring in Fun, looks like she will land on her hennaed bare feet.

My middle children, on the other hand, chose athletics, and, because they were good at it, sports became virtually their sole extracurricular pursuit. They’ve done fairly well academically but nothing – not science, math, English, history, debating, film, politics, not even cars or sex – has sparked their passion the way athletics have.

So what’s a jock to do?

Again, this isn’t some kind of wish fulfillment for all the jocks in my past who got the girl and may or may not have inflicted ritual humiliations upon me. I worry about my children and those like them – solid, likeable, non-douchey kids who actually want a career they’ll care about but who have picked up few practical skills other than the importance of teamwork, self-discipline and not keeping your uneaten lunch in your locker over spring break.

“I think I’ll study sports management,” they say. Oh dear. We’ll soon be flooding the market with sports management graduates and kinesiology majors – a generation of gym teachers.

On the plus side, they’ll be the healthiest unemployed generation ever.

Help me out. Have we gone too far in emphasizing sports for kids? Is my artsy knee jerking? Or am I simply overreacting in this uncharted parental territory?


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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30 Responses to What’s a jock to do?

  1. Tez says:

    Hi Ross,

    Oh, my giddy aunt! Your kids have, “skills of teamwork, self-discipline and not keeping your uneaten lunch in your locker over spring break?” Then have no fear, they will go far and one day will rule the world. Seriously!! (Sorry about all the exclamation points, it’s just so nice to hear aboot kids who are developing into healthy, responsive human beings. Couldn’t resist the aboot so please don’t beet me.)

    Having had a similar experience with my second child, a boy, I can honestly say he is one of the most successful and warm person I know. The best advice I was given to navigate the uncharted parental territory was, “let them take the reins, move aside and shut up. You’ve done your bit, now it’s up to them”. Realising that decisions about his future were none of my business, I had to let go. It was so hard to take a back seat knowing all I could do was applaud when he picked himself up after making a mistake and when he achieved his goals. My son got a degree in fitness and nutrition and has a very satisfying, and lucrative, career operating his own business.

    It sounds like your ‘jocks’ have what it takes to succeed at whatever they decide to do. Plus, the fitness industry is burgeoning in the first world so there will be no shortage of careers for your sports-loving offspring.

    Best of luck with the letting go thing.


    • rossmurray1 says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful and reassuring reply. Maybe I’m just wishing I could be super-parent and lift that existential car off them. But yes: good kids become good adults (hopefully).

  2. While I know you’re only sort of concerned and I assume mostly kidding, you do raise an interesting observation. Those kids used to get into good union manufacturing jobs or jobs as police officers or fire fighters and what not. None of those jobs is what they used to be (at least here in the USA). I guess PE teaching makes sense.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I have no objection to a solid trade. In fact, my son mentioned in passing taking criminology and I was “Yes!” My son a cop. I can get behind that. If they want to make widgets, I’m all for it, but I want them to be happy making widgets.

  3. Steer them to rugby. Canada has yet to really threaten the all blacks so they’re more likely to get in the team – they could be the new rugby Wayne Greyskys…(he was Canadian right?)

  4. rossmurray1 says:

    Sorry. Rugby’s a blast but basketball’s their game. And at least I understand the rules.

  5. Katie says:

    This is a tough one. I never really thought about it this way, but I guess jock-y types can be every bit as underemployed as the liberal arts types.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Things are tough all over. I don’t think you’re less employable in the arts than in any other field. It’s just that the arts, and the humanities in particular, have undergone more of a systematic attack of late, but that’s a rant for another time.

  6. Amanda Fox says:

    Sports teaches so much. Besides, they love it, how could you stop them? So they might end up becoming gym teachers, like that would be so bad LOL. All the gym teachers I’ve ever known, had a pretty sweet set-up.

    Just kidding. I think sports do so much for a person. It teaches lessons they can apply to every other part of their lives, whether they end up playing sports for a living or not. And I always say, make them so tired they can’t possibly get into trouble. The downside – they probably eat you out of house and home. I know mine do.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      You said it. Our cereal bill is outrageous!
      Don’t get me wrong, I love the sports, their commitment to it and all they’ve gained from it. I’m even a little jealous. I guess I just wish I had a clear answer for them in their hour of future-angst, “Why don’t you study X, or you like Y, why not a career in Z?”
      My son is getting noticed for his basketball and has a number of opportunities open to him as a result. I’ve told him to use those opportunities to take a peek through the doors that might open, basketball as a means, not an end.
      Thanks for your thoughts, Foxy Loxy!

  7. Ned's Blog says:

    In an age where fewer and fewer kids actually WANT to go outside and do something that requires losing their breath (not counting accidently finding a nude beach), your kids wanting to participate in sports is a good thing. I’m just like you; I was never into sports growing up. Somehow, all four of our kids play sports due to some type of recessive gene. I stopped coaching their teams once their skill set required more than sportsmanship and how to shoot a basket or hit a ball off the tee. I marvel at their athleticism, find joy in living a “jock’s life” vicariously through them, and am constantly reminded of why I’d much rather watch middle school basketball then any type of professional athletic event full of whiny, millionaire snots. Not that I’m bitter…

  8. El Guapo says:

    Knowing how to work on a team and see the bigger picture sound like important skills that should stand them well, whatever they decide to try.
    My problem with sports after college was that there are never any pickup lacrosse games happening at the local park…

  9. I tried, and failed miserably, at all sports I tried (soccer, softball, volleyball). I’d come home and eat my weight in ice cream, crying all the while. But I had someone there to make me feel better about myself. My good friends music, writing, drama and art were all there for me. They rubbed my back and handed me a drumstick and a pencil and said “You may have neglected us for a while, but we still love you unconditionally.” Sigh. Invisible friends are great.

    Lesson learned: You can have fun playing sports, being active and building crucial teamwork skills, even if you suck at it. But if you’re a competitive spirit who hates to lose, well, either practice every day, exploit the genes you were born with, or put the effort into something you’re doing better at. 🙂 Nothing made me feel better as a kid than succeeding at something.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I hear you. It’s not fair or honest of me to complain about my high school years. No, I wasn’t a jock, but I was popular because I had talent in other areas, including entertaining people. Build on your strengths, that’s what I tell my kids.

  10. All great comments. Obviously whatever they do that makes them happy, will lead to success, and by, “success” I mean they’ll be happy. haha! See what I did there? Not to worry – if the economy keeps going in the current direction (nowhere) they’ll be living with you for a long time- so just concentrate on your own darn skills!

  11. Um…my kid only wants to race cars – and announce races…

      • He’s rather good – I hope he decides to use his verbal skills (and keen wit) and make me some money.. um, I mean achieve inner serenity and happiness.

        My husband (who was a hardcore punk) used to be a totally soccer jock growing up… I was interested in reading, english, humanities and philosophy – I wouldn’t DREAM of wasting my time in organized sports…. the uniforms were never solid black and it required me to do things that would make my solid black eyeliner run…

        And now – my husband is not interested in any kind of sports to play; and I have become ‘the jock’ (well, sort of)…I even have a “Jill Cup” from my hockey playing days…

        So the moral is – I hate watching sports on TV unless the volume is off and I can read – no wait – the moral is – you never know how people will ‘turn out’ b/c we change all the time.

  12. The Cutter says:

    Sports are great as long as they’re a means to an end. Don’t let them read stories of major leaguers who say, “Succeeding was my only option. I didn’t have a backup plan.” For every success story, there are probably hundreds of tales that didn’t work out so well.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I read somewhere that the top athletes succeed because they focus solely on their training and, by consequence, themselves. It’s why so many are otherwise so dickish. Thanks for the comment and the follow.

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