Coordination School

Recently I watched my daughter try to kick a stationary soccer ball and miss. Or try to throw a basketball towards the hoop, only to have the ball shoot out backwards. Unfortunately, I think she’s inherited her poor motor coordination from me. I always have sucked at most sports, and like my daughter. as a kid I would always prefer sports, like swimming, that did not require large amounts of hand-eye coordination. I feel pretty bad about this, and I keep encouraging her to keep trying since I don’t want her to miss out on a lot of fun activities. And I know its pretty hard growing up as the ‘uncoordinated kid’ like I did. I even went to coordination school.

I actually had a lot going against me in addition to my innate lack of good coordination. For one I had four older brothers, all good at sports, who would continuously make fun of my clumsiness. My mom was somewhat clueless since she sent me to basketball classes when I was six wearing suede shoes and tube socks, but that’s another story. In reality, I blame my second grade teacher for my aversion to participating in team sports. Back when I was in elementary school my mother decided to go back to college to study educational psychology. As she was learning about the different assessment tests used in the field she would test them out on me and then explain how she would evaluate them. At school, the school psychologist would occasionally come by and use these very same tests on us, and since I already had done them and knew how to skew their interpretation I would invariably decide to mess with the teachers. This would result in some fairly alarmed teachers and a call to my mother, who would then explain that I was just messing with their minds and that didn’t they have anything better to do than to harass her son. I remember a pouty school psychologist finally telling my mother, “well maybe there’s nothing wrong with him psychologically, but he’s severely uncoordinated!”

This led to my mother asking my pediatrician(who happened to be my uncle) during one of my checkups whether he thought I was uncoordinated. My uncle said, “let’s see” and he crumpled up a piece of paper and tossed it on the ground. Then he asked me to kick it. Being left handed, I usually kick things with my left foot. So as I went to kick the paper I was thinking, “hmm…maybe they want to know since I’m left-handed, whether I’m also left-footed – maybe I’ll confuse them by kicking with my right foot!” This of course was just as I was about to kick the paper with my left-foot and as I attempted to quickly change to my right foot I somehow managed to trip and fall flat on my face. “Yup…definitely uncoordinated.” So despite my protestations and explanations they sent me to what my mother called “special gym”.  “It’ll be fun”, she said. But I knew where I was going: I was going to coordination school.

This supposedly fun thing, turned out to be classes for kids with motor problems. Some sort of occupational therapy where we had to walk in straight lines, practice clapping and standing on one foot. It was evident to me, even then, that the other kids were more worse off and had actual problems, unlike my fake ones. And after a month or so this also became evident to my mom, who took me out of the classes and instructed my brothers to teach me how to play soccer. I never did mess with the school psychologists after that. And I’m still bad at soccer.

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17 Responses to Coordination School

  1. GMP says:

    LOL — this was a fun post!
    My oldest son — who is also a lefty — is not particularly well coordinated, plus he has a dreamer’s disposition (reading, drawing etc) and never cared about sports too much. He’s been swimming for years and we try to entice him to take part in group sports just for fun — but I am afraid he’s also a perfectionist and if he can’t do something right from the get go he gets frustrated and tends to gives up. Hopefully this gets better as he gets older. Personally, all I care about is that he has two or three physical activities he likes doing so he keeps doing them into his adulthood as a form of exercise.

  2. gerald says:

    Funny. My story is kind of similar. Never great at sports, despite early growth spurts (I was 6 foot by age 13). My thing wasn’t coordination, I was ok at that considering. I was just slow. Maybe not slow per se but not at all quick. This was so obvious that while taking one of those educational tests (maybe IQ?) the teacher specifically remarked to my mother that I would have scored much higher if I weren’t so slow in pointing out my answer on the timed sections. If you thought athletic skills couldn’t influence academic test taking, there you go!

  3. Neuro-conservative says:

    I totally know what you’re talking about, but I question one assumption:

    I keep encouraging her to keep trying since I don’t want her to miss out on a lot of fun activities.

    and also from GMP:

    we try to entice him to take part in group sports just for fun

    Doesn’t it reach a point where these activities are not “fun” and are never going to get fun, as the developmental trajectories between the skilled and unskilled increasingly diverge?

    At what point does it make more sense to have the courage to “accept” the difference, and teach the child to accept themselves?

    • Namnezia says:

      “At what point does it make more sense to have the courage to “accept” the difference, and teach the child to accept themselves?”

      Whenever she decides its no longer fun for her. But if she says she wants to play basketball, then I’d rather be supportive than tell her she’ll never get good at it.

  4. gerty-z says:

    I think it is great you are encouraging little PLS to play sports if that is what she is into. I say that is she is having fun, then keep at it. I played BBall all through high school. I was an OK player, but somewhat hampered by my…let’s say coordination limits. But I have some great friends from my sports-team affiliations. Also, it probably kept me out of trouble, at least a little 😉

  5. drugmonkey says:

    I think of it as necessary to proper education. Along with readin, ritin and rithmetic, I want my kids to have minimal competency at arts, music and sports. We try to offer a variety, depending on the kids’ interests. Swimming, of course, is not really optional (nor are one or two other so called individual sports in my household). The goal is to make it possible for them to find and pursue their own loves.

    We do have one who is not great at hand-eye coordinated stuff (takes after me, poor thing) but that particular kid is better at body-sense type physical activities. And is more coachable.

    I would caution many parents for whom sports were a painful experience not to let that influence how they parent their own offspring…

  6. Neuro-conservative says:

    Points well-taken, DM. I’m curious though — what if an academically-inclined child does not want to go to a general-sports summer camp, which most of their friends and peers would be attending?

    Would you enroll the child in something like a “science camp” (assuming such a thing were available and s/he expressed an interest), or would you encourage/insist on regular camp to maintain more balance?

    • My parents made me do both types of camps in the summer. One would be a 3-week sports/activities camp where I’d be away from home and the other was some type of camp where we’d get to use math and science skills IRL.

    • drugmonkey says:

      well, so far we have not had to do much forcing, N-c. our summer camp lineup has featured sports camps, arts camps, chess camps, some science-y camps and general academic-y type camps.

      sometimes the twerps care strongly that they have friends attending with them, sometimes they do not.

      I think the only thing that I would be forceful about would be any of our kids insisting they only wanted to do one thing to the exclusion of all other things. Whether that be organized sports after school, summer camps or any other thing. Then we’d have to fight a little bit for diversity.

      At some point we’d have to give in against a singularly obsessed kid- but I managed a reasonably diverse bit of “outside” interests well into college and that is very likely related to the opportunities provided by my parents. I would hope for the same for my kids.

  7. proflikesubstance says:

    Would you enroll the child in something like a “science camp” (assuming such a thing were available and s/he expressed an interest), or would you encourage/insist on regular camp to maintain more balance?

    Like many things out there that you can’t seem to grasp, N-c, these are not mutually exclusive.

  8. becca says:

    Wait, there are families where the *parents* choose the summer camp for the kid? Really?
    *looks baffled*

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