The second-to-last day of school last year, Emerald’s class played a game of kickball against another class. Because we don’t live in a neighborhood with a lot of kids, Emerald did not grow up playing kickball with neighborhood pals, as I did. In fact, she had not been exposed to kickball anywhere. So, she didn’t know how to play.
The other kids yelled at her when she didn’t know what to do. Some of her friends tried to help her. Their instruction was, “Kick the ball and run!” While they were trying to be helpful, that didn’t exactly make Emerald feel like she knew the game at all. She could see that much.
She told her teacher she didn’t know how to play. Her teacher responded with, “You have played it in gym.” She told her that they hadn’t. Her teacher replied, “Oh well!” Let’s just say it wasn’t a good day.
Emerald came home upset, partly because of the game and partly because they were scheduled to play again the next day — the last day of school. She was anxious. She didn’t want to go. I completely understood her anxiety. I am one of the least athletic people in the entire world (trust me) and I had many, many similar experiences during athletic endeavors in school.
Jim and I were sad that she didn’t want to go to school on the very last day of the school year. But we thought we could help her.
We took both kids outside and put together a make-shift kickball diamond. Even though there were only four of us, we played kickball. The kids learned the basic rules of the game, and we all had a blast. Emerald was excited to give it a try at school the next day. We were excited (and a little anxious) to hear how it went. Unfortunately, they didn’t play kickball the next day and the summer began. We knew she’d have plenty of other opportunities to give her newfound knowledge of the game a try.
Fast forward to this week. Emerald came home on Tuesday and told us that the counselor was coming to their classroom the next day and they had to wear their tennis shoes. She said one kid had heard they were going to play kickball. Since she hadn’t had the chance to give it a try in a real game the previous year, and since we hadn’t played at all in months, the anxiety had crept back in.
Yesterday morning, she told me she was going to ask to sit out. I reminded her that she now knew the rules of kickball and that she had been excited to give it a try before. She replied with the standard, “I know, but . . .” I told her that kickball was a really fun game and that she ought to try it. She was still unconvinced and unwilling. I then told her that I doubted the counselor would let her sit out, but that I would bet the reason he was doing this activity was to teach sportsmanship. He was not going to let the kids yell at her.
So off to school she went, still intending to ask to sit out.
She got off the bus yesterday afternoon with a smile on her face and announced, “I played kickball!!”
“Isn’t it fun?” I asked.
She nodded, smiling even more.
At dinner, she told us that the counselor wouldn’t let her sit out, but because she had asked to, he came up to her and in a very funny and non-condescending way, gave her tips and encouragement.
And she kicked a home run (if that’s what you call it in kickball)!!! You go, Emerald!!!!!
I am so proud of her for giving it her all and overcoming her fear of trying the game. And I am so grateful to the counselor for supporting her, encouraging her, and reducing her anxiety.
She now loves kickball and even more than that, she now has the confidence to try new games, especially after she knows the rules, and with a little cheerful encouragement from a helpful adult.
All in all a good ending, even if it was 10 months after the very rough beginning.
[Picture credit: underdogkickball.com]