We are rolling through the second week of school, still acclimating to being back on a schedule, and homework packets and assignments have started showing up in folders. I have a third grader and a second grader in a charter community school, and we have been quite happy there for several years. Earlier this week my third grader and I ran into one of her best friends who was telling her how she was joining cross country. My daughter came home that evening and stated that she too wanted to join the school’s cross country team.
This was big news in our house! My daughter has a tendency to shy away from trying new things, and we often have to really encourage and push her to move out of her comfort zone to at least try. Combine this with her twenty four / seven detest for the heat and her zealousness to complain about it at all times, and I did not think that cross country would be an after school activity she would want to try. However, as most parents do, we encourage our children’s interest, so I immediately looked into finding out more information about cross country.
Try-outs and Rosters
Because of the size of our school and the fact that this is the only extra-curricular offered for third graders, all grades must try out. Results are then posted via a roster hanging in the school the following day. And this stresses me out to the nth degree. It also seems very young to find out if you made the team by checking to see if your name is on a roster in front of the school. I fully understand that the school simply does not have the manpower or resources to allow all the kids who wanted to try out to participate. However, the third graders who do make the team are only able to practice with the team, whereas, fourth graders (and up) are also able to participate in meets.
The day of tryouts came and my daughter did amazing! I attended the tryout to root for her and all the kids. Third graders had to run a mile in 13 minutes, and she did it under 12. And more importantly, she loved it and wanted to be on the team! We were so excited for her, thinking surely we would see her name on the roster the following morning. We arrived at school the following morning and practically sprinted to the cafeteria to see the roster. Sadly her name was not on it, and she immediately burst into tears. It took everything in me, her proud mama, not to do the same.
Through a series of emails with the coaches, I learned that they took other factors into account. There had been two previous practices, not advertised to the third grade classes, and they took those into their consideration. I fought valiantly for her and her few friends that also did not make it (as did their parents), since she did exactly what was asked of her in tryouts. To me, it makes no sense to discourage kids from wanting to participate in a physical activity that requires no equipment, but they stuck to their decision.
It is very hard to explain to an eight year old child that even though she did a great job during tryouts, she still did not make the team. At this age, when they are starting to figure out who they are and what they want to do, we should not be discouraging them with unnecessary rejection. Had she not completed the mile in the time, that would have been understandable. It is most likely a manpower issue, and I even offered to volunteer my time. This is such a prime age to start kids on good habits, to teach them that active activities can be more exciting than screen time, and to give them a responsibility to be a part of a team that they want to participate in. I hate that she had to experience this with truly the first extracurricular she showed interest in. I explained to her that I fought as hard, and sometimes life just is not fair. It is truly a hard lesson to learn so early on.
From After School Activity to Empowerment
I shared with close friends the sheer unfairness of the entire situation. I had a young child who wanted to learn the sport of running but could not within her school. They commiserated, they asserted the sheer silliness of the decision, and then they told me about Girls on the Run. Girls on the Run is a youth girls program dedicated to empowerment, responsibility, and teaching girls that they can be anything through an experienced based curriculum. The goal of Girls on the Run is to inspire and nurture through running and activities.
We are so excited to begin our journey with Girls on the Run and to be able to encourage our daughter on her new found love of running, because truly, a new passion should not be discouraged.