It has been a roller coaster of a week, but one that has really helped put some things into perspective for me – and has totally cemented (if it wasn't already) the belief I have in the power of youth sports!! Much of this was reinforced last night at the high sports banquet recognizing the winter sports athletes. I saw young adults being recognized for traits such as sacrifice, improvement, team spirit, character, academic excellence, athletic excellence, and perseverance. I saw young adults being recognized for college signings, being awarded community funded scholarships and for being outstanding examples to their peers. It was unbelievably moving.
One of the athletes recognized through out the night was a senior whose impact on her peers was so great that they named an award after her – and she got to present it to a teammate. I found myself very moved by this young lady's achievements – partially because as a young child, she was one of my students. I was her gymnastics coach for a few years and the sense of pride I felt in watching her be recognized for all her success was so rewarding. To know that I was a part of the development of this young woman's character, work ethic and athletic achievement is why I love coaching.
Then my parental pride got its turn as I saw my son get his Varsity letter for swimming his freshman year. Honestly as a younger child I did not see him having the confidence to try out for a high school sport. He played ice hockey but the rink closed and he reluctantly changed to swimming (let's call that silver lining). For him to have the opportunity to be part of a team, make a contribution and build up the friendships he has, is just priceless. The evening was very motivating to him as he saw friends and acquaintances recognized for their achievements – I think it gave him perspective and a true purpose for his efforts in sports and academics.
And then seeds were planted – and this is where it gets good!!! Remember that award named after my former student? My 9 year old told her 12 year old sister about it (she wasn't at the banquet – she was at gymnastics practice) and she then looked straight at me and said, “I want to earn that award.” Nice!! And I know she can.
My 9 year old heard the names of girls being called for field hockey scholarships and swimming excellence. She sat with the swim team – as they treat her as one of their own already anyhow – and she was able to envision all these things as possible for her own future. She heard of the sacrifices, the practices, the travel to games, the late nights doing homework, and she sees the rewards. The rewards are HUGE.
The power of youth sports is not all the recognition of achievements. Part of the power is in the relationships and character it builds. In amongst all the victories and accolades, there have been plenty of trying times and tragedies and the athletes are there for each other. Their strength and caring amazes me on a daily basis.
I'm leaving you with two more positive youth sports articles to start your weekend.