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.