Many men credit sports as having served as the cornerstone in their relationship with their fathers, as does Keith Gessen in his article Game Over (3/22/21). Tossing a ball or driving to events together offers an easy backdrop for talking and hanging out as well as a blueprint for connecting with their own children decades later. But if their sons show little interest in sports, a lot of these fathers are stumped and left to come up with new templates for connection on their own.
Maybe it’s time to put to rest the the expectation that all boys play sports. After all, some simply don’t like the aggressive physical contact or the regimentation of team sports. Others don’t care for competitive activities. Still others have learning disabilities that lead to spatial or visual-motor deficits, making it hard to track moving objects (such as baseballs or tennis balls) in order to catch or hit them.
Every year countless boys without an ounce of athletic interest or talent are signed up for sports they don’t care to play but are told they must. Meanwhile, their genuine passions and aptitudes remain under the radar and, along with that, their truest selves. “Seeing” these boys for who they are, and honoring the myriad personal skills they have that are rooted not in the physical but in other dimensions of humanity such as empathy, patience, and diplomacy, would be a terrific step forward in expanding the restrictive man-box so many of us complain about and aspire to change.
— Janet Sasson Edgette, Psy.D.
Author of The Last Boys Picked: Helping Boys Who Don’t Play Sports Survive Bullies and Boyhood