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A better way for kids to enjoy sports

Beneath the din of soccer leagues and digital screens, have-tos and must-haves, Bernadette Noll quietly proposes 75 simple ways to slow down, connect and create more joy in her new book, “Slow Family Living” (Perigree; slowfamilyliving.com).

The idea came to her after she and a psychologist friend in Austin, Texas, Carrie Contey, presented a workshop for couples on creating a family mission statement.

“The thing that kept coming up was that people were feeling pressured to do things a certain way or do things they didn’t want to do,” Noll said. “We joked afterward that there needs to be a slow family movement, like there is slow food. Later, we realized no, there really does. … It’s about trusting that childhood enrichment can come from your own family.”

Which is why Noll offers liberating testimonials without spouting dictates.

“I wanted the book to be interpreted by each family picking it up. My favorite response came from a mom who wrote me, ‘This is the first parenting book that I’ve read that doesn’t make me feel like I’m doing it all wrong.’ ”

Noll’s book covers lots of ground. But childhood sports crop up in a few places, touching on several tenets of “Slow Family Living.” Here’s what resonated for me:

Keep it informal. If a soccer league cultivates dread, disconnection and fatigue, drop it and substitute family games at the park or playground, maybe with neighbors.

Bonus fun if adults join in. You probably don’t recall who raced beside you in the 100-meter dash in high school. Bet you would remember if your rival had been your mom (which never happened with my parents’ generation). Along with neighbors, Noll, her husband and four children recently walked to a nearby school for an impromptu track meet with relay races.

If I can jog for an hour on Saturday mornings, surely I can manage freeze tag at the playground.

No uniforms, chauffeuring or payment necessary.

“This is also about realizing that you don’t have to consume something in order to do something,” Noll said. “One of my underlying messages is quality rather than the quantity. Even metaphorically speaking, it’s about consuming less emotionally too.”

And if you don’t have a ready-made team and want/need a scheduled outing for the motivational aspect? Consider signing up for a parent-child karate, swim or art class.

“The family in the book who did that karate class, they are still doing it,” Noll said. “They’re finding that’s one of the only times during the week where they’re all together.”

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