I was a pretty extroverted kid growing up – team sports were my jam. Not because I was any good at them (I was really awful) but because I loved being around people.
So, naturally, when my kids got older I signed them up for team sports. We started with t-ball because I knew Ollie’s friends were playing. That …. did not go great. While he loved being with his friend (yes, just the one), he really didn’t care about the game itself. Which is fine by me – I myself remember sitting in the outfield, picking daisies. But these parents, you guys? Some of them are in-TENSE. You would think these 5 year olds are future major leaguers.
T-ball was also really pointless to him – he was stuck in the outfield (because he inherited my athletic prowess) and as the games dragged on, he soon became over it. After half time (do they call it that in t-ball? I never learned), he would fight going back on the field. Eventually the season ended and when it came time to sign up again, he refused.
Instead, he wanted to do taekwondo.
This was a new thing for me. I didn’t know many kids who did martial arts growing up so the world was completely foreign to me. But there was a school down the street from our house so we took a 6-week trial.
He. Loved. It.
At first, I was nervous. Ollie is my sensory kid – he had some gross motor delays so he’s not the most coordinated child. Coordinating kicks and hits was difficult. And the classes were a mix of belts – going all the way from 6 year olds to 12 year olds. I wasn’t sure how he was going to learn in such an environment – but he did.
The teacher is an extremely patient high schooler who somehow knew how to reach each kid at their level – I only wish I had a tenth of his patience and poise. The weeks passed as I sat on a bench, nervously watching through a tinted window. I watched as Ollie grew stronger and more confident. He was more patient with his little brother and started to hold himself to a higher standard with his schoolwork.
Our 6 weeks ended and I asked Ollie if he wanted to continue. He still begs to go to class and we often go 2 times per week, if not more. Because that’s the beauty of taekwondo – it can be as flexible as you need it to be. We never have to go but we always get to go.
We signed up for more classes – and a week later they asked if he was going to try for his yellow belt in the upcoming test.
“Is he ready for that?” I asked, worried. What if he tested and didn’t get it?
They assured me that he was and Ollie was over the moon excited.
“I’ve been waiting for this day forever!” he said.
The day of the test came and he was nervous but still very excited. In front of the entire school, he performed his routines with a serious face. While he had a few slip ups, he performed confidently.
A week later (tonight, as of this writing), we will go back for the awards where he will receive his yellow belt. He is already talking about working hard to achieve the next belt class and I see how valuable this experience is for my little introvert. Ollie wants to achieve and seeing a path where he can work hard and earn different belt classes is perfect for him. He wants to be a black belt one day more than anything.
I am not only grateful for the lessons he has learned and the habits he has picked up on during taekwondo – I’m also grateful for the parents. Everyone in the school is extremely supportive of one another – commenting and complimenting when someone else’s child performs well and being very open and accepting to newcomers. When one child does well, the whole school lauds those successes. When a child needs help, the kids and teachers pitch in to assist. While it’s not a team sport per se, it’s a very collaborative environment where everyone helps each other to succeed and be the best version of themselves.
Ollie seems much happier in an environment where he – and he alone – is in charge of how he progresses. It’s collaborative while still celebrating the individual. He “gets” it – and while I don’t think the nail is entirely sunk in the team sport coffin, I also feel that we may be a taekwondo family for quite some time.
And let’s be real, any time my kid wants to do a physical activity where mom gets to be in the air conditioning in South Louisiana? Sign us up.