What He Sees
A week days ago I received an email from the mother of a new athlete I am working with. Two days prior I had sent over video of the assessment session I took him through. She relayed his comment in her email; “Is that what I look like to other people?” I’m not quite certain what he saw, or what exactly his perception was. I idled around that sentence. I’m a Zen Master of deleting emails, but this one stays in a folder.
“Is that what I look like to other people?”
To me, he looks like bouncing potential. Potential is an unusually complicated term. I watch him and see movement with energy and enthusiasm. I see crawls and jumps and overhead walks that, given some strengthening, will provide abundant physical benefits. I see a proper course of action and a lot of play work to be done. He moves a lot better than most of my athletes when we first start. The deficits in strength and motor planning are often significant. This one, he’s motivated, he’ll progress quickly. He wants to play strong.
What does he think he looks like to other people?
I’m not certain. That’s the thing about this population, being a spectrum and all, but there’s much more to it. We refer to them as “splinter” skills. Not “savant” skills, but certain abilities or thoughts that, with respect to available evidence of cognitive and emotional functioning, you just wouldn’t think would be there. Not in the “I’m so sorry I underestimated you” dramatic fashion, but the eyebrow-raising “Huh, didn’t know that was there” style. Splinter, a small thing that doesn’t appear to fit with the rest.
But not fitting with the rest is a particular issue for those children, adolescents, and teens we might refer to as “mid-range.” They’re often aware of their diagnosis, or at least that they are different in a different way than most “different” kids are different. They, as do most young humans, fiercely desire to be accepted by peers. They want to please at least a few adults, not necessarily their parents, but perhaps one or two older, cooler people. But how?
I am a biased, biased man. I am beholden to the idea that through fitness programs that strengthen and enhance the body, that nurture determination, independence, and social skills, we can build a few rungs on the ladder to a better life for the mid-rangers. Adolescence pretty much sucks. Difficulty socializing does too. Chucking a medicine ball back and forth is not just an excellent way to enhance strength and power in the vertical plane, but a conduit for both socialization and the slow, steady dissipation of angst. Prioritizing fitness doesn’t mean turning things upside down. It means setting things right side up.