Source: Valley Roadrunner

I Kid You Not: why community sports are so important


June 19, 2013

Back in 2007, I wrote an article for The Roadrunner with a simple title: Why sports are important.

It was a reaction to my experience in the 2007 fire that came through Valley Center, an unfortunate second occurrence in only four years, but my first time going through anything even remotely like that.

In my hurried frenzy to load my 1993 Mercury Grand Marquis (sometimes I miss that old car) with as much important stuff as it would carry, I remember looking back at one of those quick-as-a-flash moments in which I realized that my sports equipment was among the first few loads I carried to the car.

The retrospective realization in my resulting article led me down the road of examining why sports are so important to the fabric of our society, as shown in the decision for the San Diego Chargers to host their home game against the Houston Texans that Sunday.

Unfortunately, our county and our country have been through enough tragedies that we seem to have figured out how to handle these things with the proper balance of respect and toughness. We saw how bringing sports back after the Sept. 11 attacks helped us collectively begin to heal. Weíve had the discussions, weighed the options and started to see just how important these games really are to us. Even as recently as the aftermath of the horrible events at the Boston Marathon, we see how the city of Boston has rallied around its sports teams (in particular, the Boston Bruins, who rode an amazing stretch of playoff performances all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals) in a show of solidarity.

But even in the good times, we have plenty of reasons to make sure our sports maintain a prominent place in our communities.

Now, to be clear, professional sports have their purposeóthey entertain, they give us an outlet for both our jubilation and our derisionóand Iím certainly glad theyíre around.

But I think the most important sports we have in our country are the ones that take place at the community level, from the little strikers on the soccer pitch (their shin guards are so adorably tiny!) all the way up to the hulking bruisers on the varsity football teamís offensive line (their shoulder pads are bigger than the grille on my car!).

Playing sports is like practicing for life.

Thereís a reason why we have so many sports metaphors weaving through the fabric of our everyday livesówe all have a notion for what it means to have three strikes, or to be down and out, or to have someone drop the ball, or to throw a Hail Mary (which is a bonus because the term is itself already a borrowed metaphor), or to roll with the punches. The reason why these things translate so easily to other areas of life is because so much of what happens in the arena of sports is a metaphor for what happens in our daily life.

We practice working well with others by forming teams, playing specific positions and pursuing a common goal. We practice ethics by learning to act with good sportsmanship, no matter what the other team says or does. We practice respect for authority by listening to the coach. And we practice hard work by learning to work hard.

Itís absolutely true that there are many ways to practice these concepts, and different activities will have different effects on different people. Iím not necessarily into dancing (despite my many sweet thumbs-up-shoulder-shaking moves out on any unsuspecting dance floor) but from what I saw at the VCHS Dance Concert a few weeks ago, being a serious dancer can teach you all of these things very well.

But for those who enjoy sports in one way or another, as so many of us do, athletic competition provides one of those rare combinations that so many sugar cereals promise (but increasingly fail to deliver): sports are fun and good for us.

I donít really like to exercise. It hurts, I get all sweaty, and itís really pretty boring. But if I can burn some calories playing shortstop on a softball team or playing goalie on a rec-league coed indoor soccer team (we still need some girls to play if anyone is interested!), I get to run around and have a great time.

We can learn life lessons through sports in the same way, especially as children. At the time, we donít know that, someday, weíre going to need to know how to deal with the fact that Bob from accounting forgot to e-mail the spreadsheets we needed for the big presentation in half an hour. If not for all those coaches reminding us to play for the team and always do your job no matter what anyone else is doing, Bob from accounting might end up wondering what gets rid of the taste of 72 freshly-printed spreadsheets.

And thatís why community sports are paramount. We can never have too many opportunities to help kids learn how to best navigate the tricky passage through lifeís twists and turns. You never know when youíll suddenly remember that one practice, or that one game, and whateverís going on in front of you will snap into clear focus. To give children as many chances to learn, especially while having good, old-fashioned fun, has to be deeply embedded in the priorities of any community.

We have that here in Valley Center. We have an array of amazing youth sports programs, whether itís soccer, lacrosse, Little League, Pop Warner, volleyball, tennis, swimming, rugby or just about anything short of caber tossing (and Iím sure there are a handful of kids who would sign up for thatóand those are the kids who usually end up wearing the front end of a Chevy for shoulder pads).

Practice makes perfect.

They say that great athletes donít practice until they get it right; they practice until they canít get it wrong. Greatness on the field is achieved the same way as greatness in any walk of life. The ones who succeed are the ones who make the most of their life lessons.

Iím realizing, as I write this, that Iím not writing to the sports fans, supporters, parents and athletes out thereóyou already know this stuff, and I see so many of you live it out every day.

So I suppose this is meant for those who may not understand why we have sports, or if we do, why we need to spend so much time, energy and ink on a bunch of kids running around the yard.

I admit that Iím not the most politically active person, nor am I the most up-to-date on the latest news from around the world. But I can see how important it is to be engaged in what happens with our government at all the levels from local to federal. The people in charge of making policy have a direct effect on what happens both now and in the future, so itís imperative that we choose our representatives wisely.

With that said, I think that the sports world deserves the same courtesy from those in the public and private sector, because the games we play as children have a deep, long-lasting effect on those people who will, one day, shape our worldófor better or worse.

Given the choice, and all other things equal, I would absolutely choose to support an individual who grew up playing sports in a community like ours because I see firsthand how the lessons learned on the field have an impact on a young athleteís life. Itís the complete opposite of a surprise that Valley Center High School consistently sends graduates out into the world who are mature, hard-working, intelligent, compassionate, confident people who go on to have success in all aspects of life.

Community sports are important because they help kids build a foundation that will anchor the framework of their lives on solid principles time-tested to make the road to success a lot less bumpy.

And if nothing else, youíll learn how to roll with the punches when somebody drops the ball on a Hail Mary.