Friday, August 16, 2013

Why Sports?

I just had a woman inform me that "any parent who allows their child to play sports is crazy." As a former athlete--and as someone who would let my children (should I ever choose to have any) play sports--I was obviously a little upset by this sweeping judgment.

First and foremost, it is not her place to judge. However, and maybe more importantly, perhaps those without knowledge on the subject should not interject their opinions. She was quick to inform me that those playing sports would be better served to spend that time getting a job and getting into the working world so they could learn about "real life."

While there is nothing wrong with them forgoing sports to get a job, I find her implication that athletes are lazy or careless about their future to be rather insulting. I may also note that I worked during most of the time I played sports--making my days incredibly long as a student, athlete, and an employee.

I'll fully admit that I'm biased on the subject, but I will also concede that I think it's perfectly fine for a parent to keep their children from playing sports if they so choose. Nonetheless, I do think it's quite important to point out the flaws in the argument that sports serve no purpose in a child's life. I learned a great deal about the so-called "real world" during my time on the court.

Why sports?

#1 Learning how to be a part of a team
This lesson seems a little bit obvious, but it's vital to any success in life. Not only do sports allow you the opportunity to work with others, but they also teach you the value of individual strengths. More often than not, there is something unique that each person can bring to a team, and in sports you must learn to look for those skills in others and appreciate them. Additionally, it is imperative to success to make sure that others can count on you. This develops trust, teamwork, and communication.

#2 Learning to have fun while working hard
Let's face the facts:  life can be tough. There are hard days at work, and there are rough times. But, if you have a support system--much like that of an athletic team--you learn to laugh through the hard work, and there are people around to help pick you up when you fall. Some of the best times I can remember in high school are the goofy things the basketball girls and I got into before, during, or after practices. We had fun while working toward a common goal, much like you must do in many areas of life.

Hard work always warrants a little goof off time ;)

#3 Learning respect
While we might not have warmed up to R-E-S-P-E-C-T, we definitely learned the importance of respecting those around us during my years in basketball. I learned respect for coaches and how to properly interact with authority figures, while still making important decisions for the good of a group. I learned to respect my teammates, my opponents, and most of all myself.

#4 Learning that you can compete with someone and still be friends
This is probably one of the most important lessons that I learned while playing sports. I came from a small town, where we played the same girls from the same schools year in and year out. By the time I graduated, I had been playing against some of the girls for ten years. We knew our opponents on the court, but more importantly, we befriended them. Just because we were competing for a common goal, it did not mean that we had to hate the person or see them as an enemy. I am still good friends with many of my former "opponents," just as I am friends with those I compete with in my daily work. Competition does not have to create enemies.

#5 Time heals everything
Once again, it sounds cliche. However, the fact of the matter remains that if you played sports for long enough, you likely got injured. Injuries that strike during important times in your high school career or during important games are some of the hardest situations to deal with. It hurts physically, of course. But, it also hurts emotionally when you are left out of that game that you so badly wanted to play in. It's difficult. During those times, I learned the importance of prayer, of patience, and of personal growth. And, with time and rehab, you heal. Sounds a lot like "real life," huh?

All were important lessons in my life, and sure, I probably could have learned most--if not all--working some part-time job. But, I learned them on the court, in practices, on bus trips, in locker rooms. My lessons were no less significant than the kid who learned them elsewhere.

I would not trade a minute of the time I spent playing basketball. I learned valuable lessons, I made some of the best friends I have ever had, and it made me a stronger person. There are hardworking kids out there playing sports whose hard work should not be discredited just because someone doesn't understand the lifestyle.

Furthermore, those who say that sports take away from family time have obviously never visited Small Town, America, where families bond over sports.

Essentially, I don't judge your family; I don't care if you allow your children to play sports or not. So, please refrain from judging what you don't understand, and take note that sports are not mindless activities.

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