The Other Side of Sports

The side of sports that we often see (and hear) is what we get from highlight reels on ESPN, live games with active commentary and news reports of athletes who have come up short in their personal lives. Sports events and news is now 24-7. I just got a “tweet” from Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN about up to the minute NFL injuries (it was helpful for me as I set my fantasy football line-up).

I say all this as a guilty (and willing) participant in the “following” of sports too much and the commentary around it. My wife would wholeheartedly agree (but she watches Kate plus 8-formerly John and Kate plus 8). I know it is a weak comeback but we all have our vices. And now to my point. Many of our youth are engaged in sports in a meaningful way and it is a great activity for them, but they see and hear the same trash talking, athlete scandals, the glorification of the “big hit” in football games and all the money and fame that comes with playing sports professionally. This is tough for our kids to process. It came to life for me, when during a 5-year-old flag football game last week, I saw some trash talking by a 5-year-old after he made a tackle (as opposed just taking off his opponents flag). As a father and a coach that bothers me, but how can I blame a 5-year-old when that is what he is used to seeing (regularly) in professional sports.

The “other” side of sports is what it can positively bring to kids. I am going to boast and brag a minute about the boys at Washington Jesuit Academy. This year we added a football team to our usual fall offering of soccer. For a school of 75 students we had 40 boys playing football and 18 playing soccer. This is huge, literally. Over 75% of the school was engaged in a meaningful athletic activity that kept them involved physically and helped develop their character. Great coaches make a huge difference as well and we have those too.

Now look at the results. Detentions were down over 75% for the same time period from a year before. The honor roll list was higher by 30% for first quarter this year over last. While both football and soccer had winning seasons (soccer made the playoffs for the first time) those results were secondary in the scope of things. What was the difference between last year and this year you might ask? More boys involved on teams. Team sports teach incredibly valuable lessons on so many levels. I will be the last guy to glorify the trash talking ways of professional sports these days (and trust me I watch enough of it), but it is great to see the results that sports can bring. Healthy kids who are involved and able to learn and express themselves on a team. It is powerful. Take a look at our honor roll and peak in our detention room and you will see just part of the “positive” side of sports, it’s better half.