(Edited a few hours after originally posting to elaborate on sports in schools).
The British Soccer Clinic in town ended with a World Cup between Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. The girls got VERY into it! The team flags were made by other kids on their teams.
Didn't Natalia's face turn out fantastic?
I'd never even seen the Wales flag before googling it, but now I know how to paint that dragon rather well! I guess UPS men see it all, because ours didn't even blink an eye when Natalia charged out to accept the latest books from Amazon...!
Natalia's team ended up winning!
Here are some pictures from earlier in the week:
I'm so happy that they had this experience! There is an kids' expat soccer league in Moscow, but it only meets on Saturdays for about ten times total, and many of those days can end up being rather wet and cold as winter sets in... Both girls loved this soccer clinic so much, though, that they have asked to play in that league when we get back. I just wish they were able to play MORE...
It has been very good for Natalia to learn that success isn't all about being the best individual, that helping others to succeed, too, can help the whole group to achieve it's full potential... She's such a natural athlete, but I haven't been able to get her involved in a sport in Moscow for a variety of reasons. As I've written before, seven is already "old" for Russia; others already begin any given sport by age four. If I were to sign her up for gymnastics or soccer now, there's a good chance she wouldn't even be accepted. If she were, she'd be years older than others...
She would hate that. She just wants to be like the other kids... She doesn't want to miss out on after-school activities, and she doesn't want to stand out in a group for anything other than excellence... She would happily commit to three three-hour practices a week, training hard, if she felt like a part of a group, but otherwise... Uh-huh.
Katya loves soccer, and gets to play at school... But I wish it could be more... And she loves being part of a team... They have a gym class, but it's only four times a week at the most... They do run around at recess, and she plays soccer twice a week after school, but their playground is too small to really PLAY. Sports aren't part of the regular school day in Russian schools; you go elsewhere after school for that.
Since watching the Olympics this winter, she has been begging me to try curling. Seeing that this isn't a passing interest, I'm going to do what I can to let her check it out... (Today I emailed the Moscow contact for the Russian Curling Federation and asked about signing her up for a few lessons... She is beyond thrilled!)
Another downside to pursuing sports on a competitive level in Moscow would be that I would expose the girls to some serious psychological risk... I do NOT want them developing complexes about their body shape and weight... When Katya skated for a few weeks our second year in Russia, the coaches were already criticizing anyone whose body type wasn't lean and skinny—as were other kids and their grandmothers...
The coaches and other kid would certainly make comments to my girls... Russians tend to call a spade a spade, and I don't want the kids being blatantly told when they stink at something or stand out in a negative way. If they want to give it a try and work hard, let them! Just not in Moscow...
(For kids who fit the bill for Russian sports, however, getting training in Moscow is SUCH an opportunity! I hear regularly of expat kids who return to their home countries and are superstars because of their ballet/gymnastics/tennis/hockey...)
All that considered, if I can find appropriate classes for the girls after school, I would love for them to be able to give them a try. Unfortunately, it would likely mean having to hire a babysitter and possibly a driver to get them there... Travel times can be so unpredictable with Moscow's traffic that I wouldn't be able to regularly bring them there while also working... Argh, things can all get so complicated and expensive! (The curling rinks are out beyond Domodyedovo airport—NOT next door—but do-able by subway on a weekday...)
You just don't appreciate simple things like a town sports league or your local ballet/gymnastics center until you don't have them! We may have access to amazing Olympic level coaches at rather amazing prices in Moscow, but..
For now we'll just keep going to our gym and hope that more kids join so the children's classes are more fun. We'll also keep up the private swimming lessons on weekends. If only there were more hours in a day...