Why my 13-year-old, like so many others, is dropping out of organized sports
For years, I read that 13 was the magic age, the Logan’s Run of youth sports, the time when 75 percent of kids (or whatever stat you want to pull out of your rectum) quit sports en masse, bitterly, for a lifetime of obesity.
As it turns out, my 13-year-old son, Bobby, coming home today from his first day of eighth grade, told me today that he would not try out again for the volleyball team, despite being one of the last cuts as a seventh-grader, despite going to volleyball camp this summer, despite the very good jump serve he’s demonstrated in our back yard.
He announced this angrily and dejectedly after… well, actually, he was pretty darn excited when he told me. That’s because he found out his school’s spring musical, in which he played the title role of “The Wizard of Oz” last year, would for this school year be a fall musical instead, a production of “Bugsy Malone.”
Yep, the all-kid gangster musical.
While I’m sure there are 13-year-olds who are out of sports because they have had miserable coaches, mean teammates and nutball parents, it turns out my 13-year-old is getting out of sports because, like other 13-year-olds, he’s finishing what my wife has referred to as his logical path of self-discovery (a phrase she coined sarcastically to refer to my peripatetic early professional career).
My son like sports OK, and maybe he’ll play rec league basketball this winter and try out track again in the spring. But he knows he LOVES performing. He likes being on stage, and not to put to fine a point on it, he’s good at it. He got his grade’s “best actor” award last year, which isn’t exactly a preview of the Oscars, but the kind of encouraging sign that points you in the direction of something you might enjoy for a while. My 13-year-old went to a theater camp over the summer, and he’s wanting to take improvisational acting classes.
Also, he really, really, really wants to be a Marine. So I see where he wants his path to lead: Rob Riggle.
That’s a USMC hat my 13-year-old son Bobby (left, posing with his 7-year-old brother, Ryan) is wearing at the July 4 parade in Munising, Mich. No kidding: not long after this picture was taken, a Marine in full dress walked by in the parade, saw Bobby and his hat, and gave him a Marines poster. Is this how Rob Riggle got started?
Like most any father, I had a thought from Bobby’s babyhood what sports he might play. That he’s not playing any — I’m good with that. The excitement he felt telling me about the school musical made ME want to sign up for it. After a youth of baseball, basketball, wrestling, volleyball, track, soccer, hockey and other sports I’m probably leaving out (like roller-blading, which he does just for the fun of it), Bobby’s logical path of self-discovery has given him sports he can enjoy in his down time, and activities he can enjoy the hell out of most of the time.
I still need to talk to him about that Marines thing, though. It’s great he loves the idea of serving his country, and I’ll support him in whatever he wants to do. But as a parent I’ll take Bobby dying on stage over dying, for real. Maybe I can get Rob Riggle to have a chat with him.