Monday, March 23, 2009

Willful Dodger: Curse of an Athletic Son

Tomorrow afternoon my son goes to his afterschool program – dodgeball.

Two things about this astound me. First, dodge as an afterschool program is an oxymoron. Dodge is what kids did because they were free and not subjected to afterschool programs. The key word in afterschool, is school meaning that it is still a learning, adult mandated activity (even if there was, like in Soviet elections, a semblance of choice). Afterschool programs were things like piano and ballet – the activity equivalent of vegetables. Not to mock piano and ballet, which are terrific character building endeavors that probably improve IQ. Dodge on the other hand involves blows to the head, which almost certainly lowers IQ. Most boys, however, are inclined to prefer dodge to music on that basis – happily taking the risk of blows to their head in exchange for the opportunity to deliver such blows to others.

This brings me to my second point – my son likes dodge. I despised my piano lessons, but the choice between dodge and piano was a terrible one. Neither involved Legos and both involved other children – who, in general, I did not like (the feeling was mutual). In dodge, for the many to have a good time, the few had to be pummeled. Blessed with an absurdly large head (thus giving my brain plenty of room to spin around after repeated impacts by rubber balls), poor reflexes, and limited peripheral vision I was a great candidate for the few.

My son, on the other hand, loves dodge – begged for this activity. There is some terrible irony that my son wants to play sports, any sport, all the time. My complaint about school, besides the presence of other people, was (from kindergarten through high school) too much gym. My son complains that there isn’t enough gym. He looks for pickup games to join, whereas I used to hide so that I wouldn’t risk wandering close enough to be enjoined to even out the sides. But I fear genetics will win out. There are real limits to how quick or strong he is going to be. Of course we do send him to a Jewish day school, so the bar for athletic achievement is pretty low.

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