I stood near the finish line at my fifth-grade daughter’s first cross-country meet a couple of weeks back. Dozens of parents milled around waiting for the next event to begin or feeding snacks, water, and praise to the girls who just finished. My daughter, Marina, was hardly a standout in the race, but I was enormously pleased.
She was somewhere in the last third of the pack and received a blue “honorable mention” ribbon, like the other kids who didn’t place in the top 10. She didn’t pace herself well and had to be guided back onto the course by her coach near the end of the race. I said to a nearby mom that this was better than basketball. Everyone can participate in cross-country. There was none of the bench-warming that Marina experienced as a third-stringer in fourth-grade basketball.
As a kid growing up with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), I avoided sports, mostly to avoid the kind of awkwardness that my daughter endures. I know now that exercise would have helped me, so I encourage Marina to participate in sports. I do the driving, sign the permission slips, and leave work early, if necessary.
I think we were able to find the right sport for my girl, and I congratulate myself for not allowing her to repeat my mistakes. She can be a member of a team, and still compete against herself. Running will also help her ADD/ADHD symptoms, as hitting the treadmill does for my distracted brain. I can’t spare her the feelings that come from being a benchwarmer or finishing nearly last in a race, but she seems less bothered by them than I was.
Hanging out near the finish line, Marina was happy, out of breath, and sharing her jellybeans with her teammates.
Read More Stories About the Benefits of Exercise and Sports
This article appears in the Spring 2010 issue of ADDitude.
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