Sports Meant So Much to Me. Why Wouldn’t My Son Play?

My father signed me up for sports as a youngster — soccer, football, and basketball. I was never any good.

I remember being annoyed that the coaches never actually taught me the rules — they just assumed everyone already knew how to play. I made plenty of dumb mistakes during practices. Instead of telling me what I did wrong and giving me another chance, the coaches just yelled at me and made me run laps.

Once when a teammate got hit and was on the ground trying to hold back tears, one of the coaches towered over him and got in his face, berating him. Here was a grown man, red-faced in anger, yelling at a child.

I stood alongside the coach and, mimicking his posture and voice, bellowed down at the kid, “What do you think this is, a GAME?”

This made my teammate snort out a laugh.

It would have been a nice story if the coach had punished us by making us both run laps and we eventually became best friends and maybe joined the track team together, but no, my teammate got up and went back out onto the field and I ran the punishment laps alone.

Here’s a touching story about a loving father who struggles to find some other way to connect with a son who’s just not into sports.

It was an unfamiliar playground, and we didn’t know anyone there, but Raffi immediately started talking to a slight, shy boy his age. He had long brown hair, like Raffi, and, peeking out from above his mask, big brown eyes. I was standing nearby, and I heard the boy tell Raffi that all his friends had left the playground and the kids who remained weren’t being nice to him. They were three beefy blond kids, and they were roughhousing with one another. Raffi told the boy that he would stand up to the bullies, and true to his word he went over to the other boys and puffed himself up and roared at them. But the boys were not impressed and chased Raffi away. He kept going over there, however, and eventually they just included him in their pushing and running game. The other boy sulked off, by himself, rejected again.

And almost despite myself, despite all my dreams of Raffi’s sports future, I thought: Don’t do it! Stay with the sad artsy boy. He is your true friend! You will have far more in common with him. Don’t waste your time with these other boys! –Keith Gessen, New York Times Magazine