By BISHONNA COLBERT
We are now like what—a day away from the 2012 Olympics? How exciting! I’m one of those people that gets a natural high off reminiscing of past Olympic moments and recalling the details of what family member was doing what. Track and Field was the sport right? You couldn’t call a Black person’s house when the 4×100 relay was on.
Anyone old enough to remember Carl Lewis remembers his glory Olympic days. And what about Mary Lou Retton? I almost broke my mama’s good vase trying to imitate her. Turning cartwheels in the family room—what was I thinking? The same as most kids watching the Olympics… “I can do that!” That’s why I’m making sure that my kids and I are planked in front of the TV Friday night for the opening ceremony.
Now usually I’m not one to advocate TV watching. Don’t get me wrong, we watch it and enough of it, but I make sure to balance it out with other activities (definitely reading). But the Olympics are classic and have to be watched live. Watching a rerun or highlight of a record being broken just doesn’t have the same effect. Plus, I know how to convert almost anything into a teachable moment, and you better believe my kids will be learning as they are watching.
Which brings me to this point. There will be 36 different sports featured at this year’s Summer Olympics in London. How many can you name?
Growing up I only knew of four, maybe five, tops. My knowledge of the Olympics as a youth was indicative of my socioeconomic status, race, and culture. Most of my friends knew what I knew or less. You had track and field (ranked supreme), boxing, gymnastics, diving (swimming), and canoeing. And I only knew about canoeing because I would get peeks of it as my father was turning to see what else was on. After all, black people didn’t do watersports. Right?
This is why I make sure to expose my children to as much as possible. As an African American, I truly believe we have to get past these boxes of tradition. Look at the vast opportunities that await our children from areas not frequently tapped by the likes of them. We have made tremendous progress over these last decades, but there is still much to do. When was the last time you saw an African American win a gold medal in archery, fencing, sailing, or handball? A silver in table tennis, cycling, or trampoline? I didn’t even know that trampoline was considered a sport. It’s actually a Jr. Olympic and Olympic sport. Who knew? And it’s not the same as gymnastics.
See, you can go to any local YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, or community recreation center and find organized teams for basketball, football, baseball, track, cheerleading, dance, and soccer. Depending on where you live you may even find classes for tennis and golf. But when was the last time you saw registration for water polo, shooting, or fencing in a majority minority neighborhood? These sports offer chances for our kids to develop a completely different skill set than what is acquired through the basic football and basketball, and the new environments introduced by the participation in those sports will challenge their level of comfort. Isn’t the acquisition of life skills and growth the goal of recreational activities? Do we truly only think our kids have success in sports if they make it to the NBA, NFL, or MBL? Are there no other options (hello—the Olympics)? How insane to believe this is so.
I’ve been doing research lately and have discovered that there is an abundance of scholarships available for all types of competitive activities. Things you normally wouldn’t even phathom, like speed stacking. Speed stacking (cup stacking) is considered a competitive sport and will be featured in the Jr. Olympics in Houston this year. Our children can even earn scholarship money in that. And it’s a cool sport. It’s fast-paced and demands coordination and concentration.
Yes, the Summer Olympics are around the corner and I can’t wait. Let’s use this time to introduce our children to some of the 36 sports they usually don’t see or hear about everyday. Let’s remind them that success can come from nontraditional places, and it’s okay to try something new. Do a little research yourself to find trailblazers in the field and share their stories with them.
One thing I’m definitely going to do is introduce my kids to fencing. There is a facility a half hour away that has fencing classes led by a former Olympic medalist. I’m also going to teach them about London, the idea of Britain, and what it means when people say “British.” I plan to add map activities, role-playing, and even cook up a traditional “English” dish, too. Told you. We can turn anything into a teachable moment. We are more than our past stereotypical boundaries. Let’s use this Olympics to teach our kids such. Get creative! I want to hear all about your plans for Olympic exploration, just don’t try to tell me about them during the 4×100. Kidding! Here are a couple of sites to get you started:
www.london2012.com (click on sports to get an overview, including descriptions, key players, and facts)
www.projectbritain.com/olympics/teachingresources.html (ideas for all subject areas and a variety of ages)
www.usatoday.com/sports/olympics/index (team USA info)
www.aaujrogames.org (the Jr. Olympics site)
www.factmonster.com (cool Olympic facts)
www.abcteach.com (coloring pages and more)
Enjoy the 2012 Olympics. I know we will!
Bishonna Colbert is a public school educator, writer, speaker, budding author and the mother of three. She writes about her life, parenting, community service, personal growth and bargains at her blog, Mommylanta.com, at which this post originally appeared.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.