When I was my kids’ ages, I participated in a grand total of two sports. The first was swimming as part of the neighborhood club league in the summer. Imagine, if you will, an acne-ridden overweight teenager having to wear a racing swimsuit to swim laps with a bunch of prettier, more outgoing, and more athletic teenagers from a completely different school in icy water at 7 AM four days a week. It goes without saying that those days are not part of my favorite memories. Later, in high school, I was part of the junior varsity volleyball team (one of the inaugural members, I remember telling the school board that they needed to add volleyball because not having the sport was denying female students the opportunity for athletic scholarships) but that ended due to a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome that put me in a brace for six months. The choice was sports or writing, and I chose writing.
Good thing, too. I’ve definitely found more opportunities with writing than volleyball.
So, when the time came for my kids to investigate club sports and teams in the area, I had to squash my own prejudices and approach the situations with an open mind. And, as we moved through leagues and sports and classes, I learned a few things that I could apply to my own professional life and the home/studio balance.
- Take the time to read the field. My boys (Bear and the Lesser Ginger) played a year and a half with a flag football league. Bear is built like a wall, with solid muscle, broad shoulders, and powerful square hands. Had he played tackle football, he’d have made a strong offensive lineman. In contrast, the LG is short, compact, and light on his feet. He’s your defensive back, ready to dart in and ruin a receiver’s day. When they started, the coach put Bear at quarterback to take advantage of the kid’s quick eyes and ability to find people (as well as listen and execute a play, we’re talking eight-year-olds). When you’re in the #momboss duality, you have to stand back and read your own field before taking actions. It can be quick – a scan of your schedule and calendar over a cup of coffee, five minutes to review the week’s to-do list, or a short talk-out-loud session on a morning walk or after the kids have gone off to school. The key is to take the time to see where to direct your energy and what plays you need to make.
- Practice matters more than pure talent. About a year ago, the LG and his sister, Penguin, started bowling during the summer. There’s a program called Kids Bowl Free that allows kids to bowl two free games every day during the summer months at participating bowling alleys. Air conditioning and almost-free entertainment? Yes, please. When summer ended, we decided to try a weekend youth league that had free practice once a week. There were other kids in the league who had natural talents and parents who bowled near-perfect games, but those kids often shrugged off practice and warm-ups. The kids who stretched and attended evening practices improved, to the point that the next year, they placed in the state youth bowling tournament. No matter how you rock your #momboss talents, you need to put in the time to practice. For me, that’s weekly writing meet-ups with the Secret World Chronicle team and a commitment to podcasting so I always have a reason to be on the microphone and improving my craft. Practice will win over innate talent in the long run. Always.
- Find your heroes and see how they make success happen. Penguin does gymnastics, and she loves finding books about Olympic gymnasts as well as watching collegiate gymnastics events on television. It’s not just about how they perform in the events, but the kinds of stretches they do, how they train for more complex routines, and what kinds of subjects they study at their universities. We want heroes who are well-rounded beyond their chosen sport, ones who exemplify good sportsmanship and generosity. In your #momboss field, find others who do what you do and learn from them. I listen to at least one audiobook a month about business or productivity in order to hear how others work in my craft, and to get some solid advice about what happens away from the microphone.
- Be your teammates’ biggest fans. Again, the LG and Penguin are great examples of this with their league bowling. Every strike, every spare, every “wow, you got THAT pin?” exclamation is applauded and cheered with age-appropriate goofiness. There are high fives as well as words of encouragement, no matter what happens during a game. In your #momboss field, cheer on your colleagues and celebrate their victories. Even more important, be an ally to other parents who are doing the same hustle day in and day out. Life’s rough, and we can all pass along more kind words and less judgment to other parents.
- Focus on the enjoyment, not the fear. At Penguin’s gym, she and her teammates have a weekly challenge to climb a twenty-foot rope. Imagine, a bunch of giggly tumbling nine and ten year olds, faced with the prospect of climbing a thick knotted rope hand over hand, up to the ceiling. They could focus on the distance to the ground, but they choose to turn their energy toward the accomplishment of a twenty-foot climb. And the chorus of, “I made it to the top again!” is music to parents’ ears when class is over. In your #momboss endeavors, there will always be something that brings fear or anxiety to your day. Try to focus on the enjoyable parts rather than the pieces that poke your nerves in the wrong places. It takes practice, and you might feel silly giving yourself that pep talk while composing an email to a prospective client or pitching a proposal to a relative stranger. Every audition I send for an audiobook makes me nervous, but I tell myself that I create possibilities with my follow-through, and more gets accomplished than if I’d never tried at all. Discover the delight and cling to it, and you’ll find it easier to see the fun rather than the fear in what you can do.
Of course, there are plenty more lessons from a variety of sports. What can you learn from baseball, cross-country, or any number of other extra-curricular activities?