If raising a potential athlete involves genetics, I think I may be in trouble
- Matthew Sherman
- Lake Oswego Review - Sports
The other day, my wife and I took our six-month-old son to one of his regular check-ups. We went through the routine of asking the pediatrician exactly how many things we were doing wrong and left trying to console a wailing child who had just received three shots.
On the drive home, my wife turned to me morosely and said: 'I'm sorry.'
I looked at her with a confused look on my face.
'I'm sorry for giving him my short genes,' she clarified.
At the last check, my son measured at about the 40th percentile across the board in height, weight, head size but, and I'm guessing here, was in the 95th percentile in gassiness.
But my wife, who stands at 5'2' in heels, was, only somewhat jokingly, disappointed that our young son wasn't currently towering over other babies.
At this age all an extra couple of inches and a longer wingspan would likely do would be to slightly increase the velocity in which he could fling mashed peas across a room.
But, as everyone knows, taller individuals often tend to have more success in sports down the road.
I have long kidded with my wife about my desire to live vicariously through my children's athletic triumphs to make up for my own deficiencies in that area.
Although I was a lover of sports from a very young age, I never excelled in any. Due to a crippling fear of making physical contact with other kids on the sports field and an equally sizeable fear of footballs, baseballs, basketballs etc… making physical contact with me at high speeds, I was somewhat limited in what I could accomplish as an athlete.
But I had great hopes for my children.
I have long envisioned grooming my son to be an NFL-quality punter. It's a specialized position, still highly paid with minimal injury risk and is relatively low pressure. I mean, when was the last time you saw a punter cost an NFL team a game?
While my own athleticism leaves much to be desired, I come from good stock. My father was an All-American soccer player who tried out for the 1960 Olympic team.
Sports came naturally to him. And what did his genes produce? Three sons all 6'0' or taller, two of which became English majors and the other who went into youth ministry.
My father didn't need to live vicariously and he certainly never pushed any of us into sports. But I can't help but wonder what went through his head as I dropped my third pop fly in a little league game.
I seem to have received genes from my mother's side of the family which boasts highly competitive personalities with very few physical skills to accompany that mindset.
Not a particularly good combination.
But perhaps athleticism skips a generation.
Despite his below average stature, my son has proven to be a fairly accomplished kicker since birth.
However, more than just my son's potential lack of size seems to be working against me in my hopes of raising a son who gets more than just the 'Sportsmanship' plaque at the end of the year awards ceremony. (An award I proudly display in my garage from my years on the West Linn High School tennis team.)
My son already has a natural tendency toward using his right hand despite my hopes he would buck the odds and become a crafty southpaw on the mound.
Also, when given the opportunity, he vastly prefers playing with his cloth books over his toy football.
Of course, his favorite activity with no matter what toy he happens to find is shoving as much of it into his mouth as humanly possible.
Which, actually, gives me an idea. Is competitive eating technically a sport?