One Gifted Girl’s Experience with Sports

My daughter is many things. A gifted girl is just one of them but it is through this prism that we, and she, views things. When I talk about things gifted I use this prism. Including when I talk about gifted children and sports.

How She Sees Herself

My daughter self-identifies as a nerd and a geek.

Not as a creative girl. She has never, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating, finished a school art project on time. But she’s taken up crocheting. I’ve got a lot of potholders.gifted children, gifted children playing sports

Not as a country girl. She loves the city and wants to live in a loft downtown. But she loves visiting the countryside. For short periods of time. Really short.

Not as an athletic girl. It’s taken a while to find her sporty side. It’s sports are a huge part of who she is but she’s given it the old college try. Here’s a rundown of what she’s been through.

Our Sporting History

  • T-Ball – She started just after she turned 3 and continued for three seasons. The first two seasons she cried at every game. Usually because she worried she didn’t have enough sunscreen on. You can read about our experience here.


  • Gymnastics – This lasted six weeks. There was zero way she was ever going to become inverted. Not even to do a somersault. She liked the trampoline and the leotard. That was it.


  • Ballet – Dang she looked cute! This lasted about a year-and-a-half but the logistics became too much for our schedules and she didn’t enjoy it enough to make it a higher priority.


  • Basketball – Her dad coached her kindergarten basketball team. She was the only girl and frustrated the boys didn’t want the team name to be the Purple Butterflies. The Purple Dragons was the compromise. She made it through the entire season without ever touching the ball during a game. She did shout from the court during a game, “Hey Mom, what font do you think they used on that poster?” They lost. Still a sore spot with my husband.


  • Swimming – Six months of private swim lessons = able to get face wet while wearing goggles. Called it a win.


  • Archery – Recently found lessons nearby. Bummed she didn’t get a bow for Christmas. Guess she should have put that on the list to Santa.


  • Martial Arts – This one has stuck for about a year-and-a-half but now we’re foiled by logistics. Hoping to figure this out soon.


  • Running – Took this up in the fall through Girls On the Run (love this organization) and she’s completed two 5K runs in the past two months. Took 2nd place for her age division. I nearly burst with pride.

A while back I wrote about how to recognize a parent of a gifted child and said you wouldn’t find them at soccer games.

Well, of course some gifted kids play soccer, or football, or lacrosse. Just like I’m sure there are some kids who identify as athletes who also happen to compete in chess tournaments.

Just because sports isn’t a high priority for a kid doesn’t mean that they don’t play sports. For my daughter, like many kids, gifted or not, it’s just one facet (and maybe not a very big one) of who they are.

So maybe you will find the parent of a gifted kid at a soccer game. Or at the cheering at the finish line of a 5K run.


16 Responses

  1. I appreciate the acknowledgement of athletic gifted kids. I knew by the time my son was 4 that he would be a very happy camper of he could train like an Olympian daily. He dances hip-hop – wants to compete in it- plays baseball and basketball. When he was 5 he wanted to be a prowrestler. Now, he wants to be a theoretical physicist. He plays sports with the same intensity, agility that he approached everything else that engages him. And gets frustrated with peers who are not as capable… Thankfully he is in a program for profoundly gifted kids now. Less tears of frustration re: how bored he is in school (what no books on pi in the elementary school library?). And he is finding as he gets older the kids who do not have an aptitude for sports quit or are catching on so he is less frustrated there too… He rode a bike without training wheels at 3 and I guess that kind of ability is not actually that uncommon with profoundly gifted kids… His athletic gifts were obvious first. His high IQ was not fully realized until after he began meds for ADHD in 3rd grade (last year) and his teacher recommend testing…

    • The Common Mom says

      He sounds like a natural athlete! Glad to hear you’ve found an appropriate school setting for him, a program for profoundly gifted kids is rare.

    • I know we are so fortunate to have a program for highly gifted in our school district! When his teacher recommended it and the director of the program suggested an IQ test to help secure a space, I looked up the program on the district website and watched a video with kids and educators talking about their experience in the academy and I knew in my heart that is what he needed. I actually began to cry. Then we had the IQ test to cinch the deal and I was really hoping that he would meet the minimum requirements. At the end of the test when we found out he far exceeded the minimum (the standard 130) and would most certainly make the cut for the highly selective program I was astounded, ecstatic and relieved. Being able to officially label him as highly gifted was like finally having a diagnosis for a disease. Now we knew what we were dealing with! This all happened a few months after we also realized he has ADHD which is by its nature is asynchronous development affecting executive functioning… But that is a whole other topic!! Thank you so much for your website!

      • The Common Mom says

        Jessica – thank you for sharing your story in comments! So very glad you’re here – we all need support as we travel on this journey with these amazing kids!

  2. I think you’ll find a higher proportion of gifted folks in distance running than in most other sports.

  3. Just want to add, I realize it sounds like my son is amazing, and he is and I know you all can relate. But we have had our share of trials and tribulations too… When he pitched for the first time last summer, the balls were all over the place then suddenly it was strike after strike after strike. After that first game the coach and other parents came up to me and said, what an arm, and there was a lot of excitement. But then, subsequently he began to develop paralyzing anxiety because he was not as good as the pros… So, I would have to help him see he was 9 and playing baseball for the second summer only…

    • The Common Mom says

      I can relate! I love/hate that at age 9 he’s comparing himself to the pros…

      • I know! I also did not know how to respond when people commented to me on what a great job he did pitching. It is not like I could take credit… Although I did give birth to him and got him to practice and the game in a relatively clean uniform, provided snacks and made sure he had water so I guess that counts for something! I also loved your post about not apologizing for your daughter when people comment on her aptitude. We also have these moments when he solves rubik’s cubes in about half a minute when we are stand-in in check out lines at the grocery or whatever. He carries various cube puzzles around with him and is constantly scrambling then and solving them as a fidget. He is obsessed… And I just smile and nod and shrug when strangers comment… The less I say the better it seems. I do not know what to say other than “it keeps him out of trouble” which is true!!

      • Umm. I may need to start a blog too! I have lots of stored up thoughts and may write the longest comments ever. Thanks for sharing yours and creating this forum!

  4. normaleverydaylifeblog says

    I’ve heard great things about Girls On the Run. Congratulations on her wonderful finish!

  5. I just want to add your post is hilarious. I totally relate to your daughters adventures and misadventures in sports! I devoured books, drew pictures and sang and lived in my imaginary world and was terrified of flying projectiles coming at me when I was a kid. Gym, recess were tortured. Fortunately I had a lot of colds/allergies so my mom would wrote notes to let me stay in and read during recess. I did become a runner and was MVP my 9th grade year. And I did learn to throw a decent free throw eventually. And I loved dancing. And now I do gentle yoga. I always wished I had kept taking dancing lessons though. I loved dance but in my head I was so much better than in real life, so I did not stick with it. There were other things I was clearly gifted at so I stuck with those. OK. One thing. I am very artistic. Anyway, I still want to dance in my heart though. And I do, alone, once and awhile when no one is watching. I think for gifted and talented kids it can be hard to choose among activities and logistics often do help decide. I think it is so healthy to not be the best at something and keep at it out of joy for that thing. I wish I knew that when I was 12! Oh, and I had a potholder loom, too. I made lots and lots of potholders…

    • Jessica and anyone else, I was wondering if you can expand on your comment about how you think “it is healthy to not be the best at something and keep at it out of joy for that thing”. My 7 year old is in competitive gymnastics and enjoys it but is not one of the ones that makes it to the podium. Last night after watching her do very well she did not receive any medals she still was very happy and even made a comment that she made it to 5th place, which there were only 6 competing. I come from a competitive upbringing and my heart was breaking for her. I kept watching her and to see how unaffected she seemed actually broke my heart even more because at the end of the day it is an activity and she doesn’t let it affect her. This is a new world for me and I am thankful that she is keeping me grounded as to not be one of those mom’s:).

  6. I was an little miffed to see your post about the parents of gifted kids not being at the soccer field on weekends. Gifted kids can also be gifted at sports, so why wouldn’t you see them there? My 9 year old son is a LEVEL 7 gymnast who trains 21 hours per week, year round. Maybe you won’t see us on the soccer field, but definitely in the gym.

  7. I can truly identify with this list. Our experiences with our gifted 11 year old daughter were very similar. Even the naming of the team. Purple butterflies. I think our daughter wanted “Rainbow Unicorns” for her team. Anyway, I thought I’d offer the following. We settled upon swimming and martial arts as activities she has stayed with an achieved moderate to impressive success. Archery as well, to a degree. She’d much rather talk about black holes, string theory, and Newtonian Physics, however. So it’s still a situation of us parents forcing physical activities on her. Oh yes, bike riding too. She loves that. Thanks for the list.

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