If You’re a Parent and…Sportsmanship v Friendship?

Posted by on May 11, 2017.

I love that my daughter enjoys team sports – from kick ball at recess to organized youth soccer, it gives us tons to discuss. There are all the traditional benefits of team sports – learning to win and lose gracefully, to understand how the individuals work within a team, to interact with coach/another adult, to balance confidence and humility, and to have fun running around and being with other kids. As she gets older, I see a whole new set of lessons arising from the personal interactions.

As I left her room at bedtime this week, she started a conversation about soccer practice. She likes to play goalie, but she does not like the ball coming at her hard (tough to reconcile). Even more challenging was the dilemma that arose when she asked her best friend to not kick the ball too hard at her. When I suggested that was the whole point of the game, she argued that her friend should put herself in the goalie’s place. If the friend is empathetic to the goalie, she would not kick it too hard or from too close.

There followed a long conversation about what can reasonably be expected of our friends. I started to mentally run through books we had read about friendship, but struggled to find examples of friends who remain friends despite being tested through sports.

Some picture book favorites came to mind – Frog and Toad, Frances, Otis (here is a great list), but those do not speak to the nine-year-old dilemma. Reading Rainbow also has a list of best friends in literature, but their list did not have any girls, just two boys or girls with animals. And this list reminded me of Anne and Diana from Anne of Green Gables – another favorite – which does have some parallels.

She loves Harry Potter, and there are some good messages from Quidditch team dynamics.

She loved Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson where two friends pursue other interests. They support each other, but they are no longer best friends once they discover their true passion (roller derby for the main character). Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels also address modern friendship; while she liked these books, she did not seem to connect to the story.

The TV show Just Add Magic does include three friends that play basketball, so that has some possibilities.

I easily found great lists for teens, but the middle group is tricky. So to all parents, readers, librarians, and teachers, I would love some recommendations! Perhaps this is the hardest part of raising children – figuring out how to help kids mesh together all the life and value lessons we teach through sports, books, and relationships and then apply them to complicated situations. Maybe next I should research parenting tween books!

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