March 29, 2020
Sports Column

Choosing winter activities not easy Parents must make sure youngsters have fun while maintaining balance

As parents of a first-grader, my wife Shelly and I are always faced with the prospects of choosing just the right sports activities to keep Nate busy during the often snowbound winter months.

Heck, when I was a kid, these decisions by my parents were pretty limited.

There was always the frozen pond around the corner next to the school, for starters.

Back in those days, we all wore hockey skates. Unless you were a gifted athlete, those things were often tough to maneuver.

My sister was the skater in the family. She had the privilege of wearing figure skates, and through the years, Debbie developed a pretty good talent for the things.

I tried them one day and quickly found that I was catching the jagged front of the blade on the ice and tumbling on my head – much to the delight of my hockey-playing cronies.

And then there was the sledding. Oh, my.

There was one special spot in Winterport that brought fear into the hearts of parents everywhere. You see, this particular hill – if the sleds were maneuvered properly, that is – took occupants and thrill seekers down the steep incline, across the road, and into a neighbor’s yard.

At this writing, our son is torn between basketball – yes, he’ll get a slight nudge from the old hoop coach – and karate.

Nate’s fascination with karate is sort of a TV thing, but the self-discipline required of such a sport might be just what his mother and his father are looking for this time of the year.

Personally, I like the bowing and the discipline. Nate sat in on a session at the ATA Black Belt Academy Karate for Kids on Harlow Street in Bangor the other night, then promptly asked the instructor why he – Nate – didn’t have a uniform.

Enough said.

Last season, Nate played basketball and became quickly bored due to the number of balls bouncing in the gym.

“Daddy,” he said. “Everyone has a ball.”

He preferred soccer and the associated opportunity to swipe the ball from someone else who was dribbling down the field. Remember: These kids are 6. The fun of scoring a goal is superceded by the glee of stealing the ball from a teammate. Scoring is a distant second on any first grader’s list of priorities if a purloin or two of the multi-colored orb is a possibility.

Sorry, dear readers, that is the mindset of the young athletic crowd.

Personally, I’m leaning toward a little self-discipline myself. After all, any time you get a kid that age – Nate will be 7 in February – to pay attention and follow instructions, you’ve accomplished something of major proportions.

What parents should know, however, is this: All the aforementioned advertised activities are important for one reason: The kids have fun.

In this day and age of athletic specialization, travel teams, and club sports participation dotting the map across our state, it is especially important that young people have fun.

Those first graders will be in high school before you know it, dear parents. Let them mix it up and have a good time.

Yes, this seems to be an annual lesson for the guardians of our youth, but in far too many circles, that lesson falls by the wayside.

Like the song says, “Teach your children well.” What it doesn’t say is this: Make sure there’s always room for fun.

Adulthood may seem distant, but, in actuality, it’s right around the corner.

BDN columnist Ron Brown, a retired high school basketball coach, can be reached at

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