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Brat-ty Sports

I was up at 5:30 am this morning. A Sunday morning after a rough week, and I can assure you I wanted to stay in bed for HOURS.

One of the biggest challenges we have had as a military family with quite a few kids (four, although that doesn't really raise any eyebrows in the military world) is finding sports for our children to participate in.

My ideas about athletics aren't everyone's; but I do believe that it is of vital importance to find a sport for my kids to make "their own." Something they are comfortable doing, and even if they aren't the best at it, they aren't the worst, either. Something they can get out and exercise at on a regular basis, and something that will foster team feelings with other kids their age. Because I have so many kids, we limit them to one particular sport each.

My eldest daughter was easy - from the beginning she was a soccer fiend. She watched soccer on TV, she had two Brandi Chastain posters and one of Mia Hamm. Every time we moved, she did the research herself so that she could find a team she felt comfortable in. The problem was that sometimes we moved in the middle of soccer season, or right before soccer season but after sign ups closed.

Keeping my daughter involved in her sport of choice became more difficult the older she got. We had to deal with varsity and junior varsity, try outs and recruiters, and (as always) moving mid-season. I spent a lot of time throwing myself on the mercy of various officials. It was tough.

My second daughter has an entirely different issue. She is about as non-athletic as a person can get. She's very smart, she loves to read, and she is very interested in cooking. But cooking and reading will not keep your body in shape, so finding something for her to do that we could also fit into our somewhat chaotic lifestyle was a challenge.

The answer was the reason I was up at 5:30 am on a Sunday morning. My #2 daughter - who can't walk down the street without tripping, is a swimmer. She has been for about two years now, and it's been great for her. Practices at her non-intensive level are three times a week, plus meets on some weekends (like this one). She's improved incredibly, she's gotten into shape, and most of all she's developed confidence in her body that she never had before.

Being forced to walk around for hours in a bathing suit that doesn't hide a thing will do that to a person.

Best of all, even though we aren't at a base at the moment, we found a year-round civilian swim team that has been tremendously supportive of our unique issues and the inevitable flakiness that the lifestyle creates. An added bonus is that my daughter "sweats" chlorine now, and so we haven't had the stinky issues we did with daughter #1 after a long day of games.

Daughter #3 will be picking up swim team next school year. We aren't sure if it will be "her" sport, but since she'll only be 9 years old she still has a few years to decide. And my son... well, the boy with the Mohawk is fascinated with the water polo team that practices at the same time as #2's swim team. I kind of like that idea - chlorine sweat really is much easier on my nose!

I'd love to hear from other parents who have had to tackle this issue with their children. What sports? And how do you keep your kids involved even when life intervenes?

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