5 Tips When "Sports Shopping"

{by Natalie Torbert}

Sports Shopping, or trying tons of different sports and praying that one will fit, can be a frustrating but rewarding process. It can take years to find your perfect sport, or it can be the first thing you try on. I shopped for a sport for almost ten years, and while each sport I tried taught me something valuable, none of them were the perfect fit for me. Just like ill-fitting clothes, some sports were too loose and would slip, not holding my interest, while others were too tight, restricting me too much. From my own trial and error experience, I came up with 5 tips to find success in that changing room phase of “sports shopping”:
  1. Find what you love. This seems super obvious, I know. Who wouldn’t make a decision to do what they love? Well, me for one. When I was younger, I was very dependent on what other people thought of me. In the First Grade, I started playing soccer, and didn’t stop until Sixth Grade. Did I love soccer? No. I only played it because my friends played it. From the end of the Sixth Grade to the beginning of ninth grade I danced ballet at a very demanding and expensive dance studio. Did I love ballet? I thought so at the time, but in retrospect, I did it only because that is what was expected of girls my age. I spent almost nine years of doing what was expected, not what I loved, which leads me into my second point…
  2. Don’t be afraid to be a mold breaker. If what you love is not the stereotypical thing for homeschool, teenaged girls to do, try it anyway! After years  of “sports shopping” I discovered a sport that is decidedly not the stereotypical thing for girls my age – . I took up Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in a combat training center! I am usually the only girl in the classes and am always the only minor, but it is what I love to do. I say, “Don’t be afraid,” even though making a conscious decision to do what is not expected can be intimidating. Before officially signing up for training, I remember wondering how this sport would be received. In the end, I decided that breaking the mold and doing what I loved to do was much more important in the long run than doing something expected that I didn’t love.
  3. Find what motivates you. This one is really important to figure out for yourself because motivation is different for every person. Motivation is the thing that will help you get the best out of yourself. For me to perform at my best, I have to have a big guy (usually an ex-Marine) in my face yelling at me…telling me that I’m not trying hard enough… that I am getting beat… or saying “You are hitting like a girl; since when do you hit like a girl?”….  If someone tries to build me up or encourage me while I am training, I don’t get the same results; Rather, I find myself not pushing myself and growing complacent in my workout or mastery of the techniques. For other people, being yelled at and being told that they are not good enough is enough to break their spirit, and they need to be encouraged. Once you find out how you need to be motivated, then you can start to list the sports and coaches that compliment your needs. Running, swimming and biking are rather self motivated, and while there is an aspect of coaching, it is not enough to motivate me to push myself as far as training MMA in the gym with someone yelling at me and telling me that I “hit like a girl”.
  4. Be prepared to commit, and know how much you are willing to commit. Know how much time you are willing to dedicate to your sport. If you decide to go out for a travel soccer team, your time commitment will probably include practices three or four times a week and then games possibly for whole weekends at a time. If you are willing to make the commitment of time and energy, great! You just might have found your sport. If however, you are leery of the intense amount of practices and grueling game schedule, then maybe a travel soccer team is not for you, maybe you would be better suited for a house league, where the schedule both for practices and games are much more relaxed. For me, the gym that I train at is very flexible. They hold training sessions almost nightly and you can attend however many you like. Before making the commitment to join the gym and begin my training, I had to consider how many training sessions I could attend and see if that warranted the monthly membership fee (which it was). I assessed my life, and decided that I could dedicate four hours a week in two days for training, and the gym was flexible enough to allow this, which was a key factor in my decision making process.
  5. Know what you want to gain out of your commitment. This, I believe is the most important of the 5 things. Do you want to gain muscle mass? Then running is probably not the way to go. Do you want to improve your cardio? Then weight lifting is probably not for you. If you want a competitive team sport, then soccer could be a good fit, while ballet probably isn’t right. I know that I wanted to gain a skill that can help me my whole life, was competitive, as well as provide a total body fitness. MMA was the perfect way to fulfill my personal goals. The self-defense aspect provides a sense of security for me throughout my whole life, the competition aspects vary from who can get an extra cycle of punches in to actual matches, and the workout is the definition of a whole body workout. For others, they might be leaning more towards a sport that is both lady-like and competitive. MMA would not be the right fit for this person, rather dancing, running or biking would be a better fit. Once you figure out what you intend on gaining from you commitment, it might signal the end of your “Sports Shopping.” 

Natalie Torbert has been homeschooled (and loving it) since the fifth grade. She loves sports, almost to a fault, and maintains that the Redskins are going to win the Superbowl at least once in her lifetime.  Her favorite birthday present was tickets to see the Washing Capitals hockey team play (and win!) and her dream job is to be a color commentator for the UFC. She has trained MMA for the past 3 years and has an amateur record of three wins and one loss.