Sports can bond parents with kids

One of the first great memories I have of my relationship with my father was when I was six years old.
My dad had been transferred to Kingston, Jamaica as an auditor for the bank. The whole family—me, my mom, and younger brother—picked up and moved into a small gated complex in the heart of Kingston.
Living in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, it’s needless to say there wasn’t a whole lot for me and my brother to do. It’s not like we could go for a walk to the park and play with nice kids on the corner who were selling drugs or hand-woven baskets.
However, we were fortunate enough to have a pool and tennis courts in our backyard, which we shared with other families who lived in the complex.
My dad wasn’t home much, being very busy with work. And with demanding hours, he didn’t really have much extra time to spend with the family.
But one Saturday morning, while I was throwing lawn chairs at the mango tree in the backyard to try and get them to fall off (yes, really), my dad came out holding a piece of equipment.
That piece of equipment turned out to play the most important role in my relationship with my father.
It started out with two tennis racquets and a three-pack of Wilson balls, but it turned into the ritual I looked forward to every week. He was my tennis coach—teaching me how to serve, volley, and put topspin on the ball.
But really, at the time, I didn’t care about that. Instead, what I remember most was standing at the baseline serving, or up at the net practising my (oh so powerful) volleys, and we would talk.
I told him about how Jacqueline stabbed me with a pencil at school because I was white, but then I beat her in the 100-metre dash so it was okay. I told him how we had earthquake drills instead of fire drills and how there was cinder blocks instead of walls in our classroom.
I even told him about my crush on Greg, the way older guy in Grade 6.
Sometimes I would make him laugh, which wasn’t always easy; other times I had no idea what he was thinking. But that didn’t matter—we were spending time together.
But then I got better at tennis and he was chasing the ball way more than before. It was game over for him on the volley return.
So naturally Dad got me a private coach.
Arthur had a g;old tooth and dreadlocks, and gave me my new nickname: “Little Chrissy” (for Chris Everett). We practised almost every day and eventually started winning competitions.
There was just one thing—Arthur wasn’t my dad.
We moved back to Canada and I kept competing, and Dad kept working. Sure, we would pick up a racquet every once in a while and rally a bit, but it wasn’t the same.
I was 18 and my parents had split up that year. I didn’t talk or see much of my dad anymore—until a piece of equipment came back into our lives. Except this time it wasn’t a tennis racquet, it was a seven-iron.
I had gone to a charity golf tournament and fell in love with golf. At first, I wasn’t very good. I got a hold of my grandma’s old clubs (the woods were actually made of wood, the grips were ripping, and my divot would go further then the ball).
Frustrated, I called my dad and asked him to take me to the range and show me what I was doing wrong. He told me to bring my seven-iron and nothing else. Reluctantly, I agreed.
Years later, my favourite club is still the seven. If I get into trouble on the course, no matter how close or far I am to the pin, he’ll sip his beer, I’ll sip mine, and my Dad tells me to take out the seven iron.
It never fails.
Cheesy story? Absolutely. But the way I see it is sometimes a child/parent relationship would be next to nothing without a bond like tennis, golf, hockey, swimming, dancing, or karate.
For a mother or father who may not be so great at sitting down for the serious chats, or who work long hours and don’t have time for the serious chats, sometimes the hour a week you spend on the court with your son or daughter will last a lifetime—for them anyway.

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