The Power of the Team Captain

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The Power of the Team Captain"Mom!" my seven year old gushed enthusiastically when I picked him up from school.

"We got to play soccer today and I was team captain and I got to pick my own team!"

My heart nearly stopped beating. Team Captain??  We're still doing that?  In P.E. at school?

"Who got picked last?" I asked gently.

Ouch!!  I'm 39-years-old and I got picked last ONE TIME in first grade.  I was new and had worn a dress on the day we had P.E.  The teacher, like many teachers before, picked the two most athletic boys to be team captains and instructed them to choose their teams.  

I'm sure you remember how it went. First, the most athletic boys got picked.  Second picked were the athletic girls. Third, the pretty girls.  Fourth, the non-athletic boys.  And last, the non-athletic girls.

I was last!!!

I remember I cried so hard I couldn't even play the game.  It didn't matter. It was a game that I didn't know how to play anyway.  We hadn't practiced any of the skills to play the game.  We hadn't gone over strategy to be able to play the game better.  Nothing.  The captains just picked teams and we were supposed to play the game.

ONE TIME!

It was only that one time that I was picked last and 32 years later I nearly cried when my son told me the name of the girl that was chosen last.

He didn't have to say her name, I already knew who she was.  

She was the 37-year-old mother of three that signed up to take my Boot Camp class.  The first night, she was in the very back row.  She got there a few minutes before class, looked around nervously, and finally chose the back corner as her spot.

She was wearing baggy sweatpants and an oversized shirt and was sweating buckets fifteen minutes into the class.  I could see that the movements I was teaching didn't come naturally to her but she was determined.  I could see it in her face.  I caught her when the class was over, thanked her for being there, told her what a great job she did, and told her I knew she could do it!!

I hoped she would come back.

She did!

Each class, she worked a little harder.  I watched her as she became more outgoing, even encouraging the other participants.  She bought a new pair of workout pants that fit snugly and wore them with a new workout top.  Then came the day she got there early and plunked herself down in the very front row.  She looked great and I knew she felt it too.

After our last class, she walked up to me.

"I wanted to thank you", she said.

"I want to thank you for encouraging me on that very first day, for telling me I could do it!"

"I've never been very good at sports", she continued.  

"I was always picked last for teams in grade school.  I opted out of P.E. class in high school and never did anything more then an occasional walk after that.  But I realized that if I didn't start taking care of my health I wasn't going to be around for my three kids.  So here I am!"

She was beaming.  She did it!  

"I love exercise!"  She said.  "I just wish it hadn't taken me 37 years to realize it."

We are shaping lives, people.

A seven-year-old doesn't need to be reminded that people already think they can't do something, that they are not good enough.  We should be teaching them how to be healthy and giving them the skills to do it for life. It's not really about the game.  It's about equipping them with the skills necessary to have a healthy and successful life and then letting them decide what they want to do with it.  Don't let the team captain decide.

Don't get me wrong.  I am a proud momma.  Proud that my boy was team captain.  But at the same time, I'm afraid.  He's seven-years- old.  He doesn't yet know the power he has with the point of his finger.  

Editor’s Note – Jennifer was my high school roommate at the small boarding school we attended in Idaho.  She showed me that girls lift weights too and invited me to be less of a bookworm and join the basketball team.  Later in college, she taught me how to pace my breathing making running possible, and met me at the pool to swim laps at an unreasonable hour.  My interest in fitness started with her.  I’m not sure either of us imagined I would someday teach yoga to service members and their spouses.  Whether you are the instructor at the front of the room, the person at the back of the room who just got up the courage to show up in class, or the parent teaching good sportsmanship to kids, I hope we can all realize that we have something to achieve and something to offer.  --Kimberly

Has the label of non-athletic stuck with you?  What or who do you think could help you break out of that box?  How can we help our kids develop an enthusiasm for an active lifestyle?