Chicago mom makes volleyball cool for her pack of boys

My three boys frequently think as a pack. Regardless of parental influence, they have very strong ideas on what is cool, what is uncool, and what constitutes social suicide. Yet in my effort to push a sport with a decreased risk of traumatic brain injury, I signed the two oldest up for Chicago Park District volleyball this month.

You would have believed I was making them wear pink tutus to perform “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” in front of the entire school based on their reactions. The cries of protest were deafening:

“Volleyball is LAME!”

“Nobody famous plays volleyball! There aren’t even trading cards for them!”

“Volleyball is NEVER on TV. And if it’s not on TV, it’s not a real sport.”

Whatever. I was going full speed ahead with my plans, but I secretly prayed that there would be at least one other boy in that park district class. It doesn’t seem to matter how hard I discourage the kids from labeling activities by gender, my lads flee any event that doesn’t include at least one representative from their sex.

The small class was mostly boys. Despite this, my sons remained semi-skeptical, so I knew I still had some work ahead of me. It was no small miracle when I discovered that two of my nephews would be playing volleyball games that very weekend.

Joe and I packed up the minivan and first headed west to Romeoville to watch cousin Bobby Walsh take the court. Bobby and the rest of his nationally ranked Lewis University team demonstrated how volleyball is played to perfection. For someone like me who was once fired by her own beach volleyball team for repeatedly hitting balls into Lake Michigan, I was wowed.

My boys were slightly impressed, but still didn’t want to stick around for “Autograph Night,” citing hunger and the long line of rabid fans.

Thankfully, the weekend was not yet over.

Cousin Mathew Walsh was set to play a weekend tournament over at McCormick Place along with his 18 Gold Ultimate Team. I’m not sure what exactly that means except the players are all under 18 and probably are fond of gold. Here is where my kids’ interest started perking up. They saw boys, including ones close to their own age, serving OVERHAND.

In the world of third- and fourth-grade boys, an overhand serve is akin to walking on water. Or owning a Wii.

Additionally, their Aunt Michele brought along Skittles. And if you ever want a kid to love a sport, by all means, associate it with Skittles.

I had them.

I continue to be so grateful for the wide variety of cool “big cousins” who provide outstanding role models to my boys. There are amazing scholars, athletes, artists, and humorists in there who dazzle me more and more with each passing year. Even more impressive is the kind and generous nature these kids demonstrate on a daily basis.

After the weekend was over? I signed up the kids for an upcoming clinic on overhand serving.

It was their idea.

Game. Set. Match.

I know, I know. I suck at volleyball. And its terminology.

But you knew what I meant.

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