Recently someone asked me not “how” I write this column every week, but “why.”
I get the “how” question all the time. Especially if they learn that I’ve been writing it for over 33 years. Thirty-three years! That boggles my mind. Fifty-two weeks a year, although in the early years it came out only a couple of times a month. Somebody calculated what that means in numbers and came up with over a million words.
The answer to the “how” is usually that I just sit down and write what is in my head (or on my heart).
But the answer to the “why” is not so automatic. I guess I’m a teacher at heart. My first college degree was in education, but I really wanted to go into physical therapy and needed a good undergraduate vehicle. A lot about physical education made sense to me. Anatomy. Kinesiology. Physiology of Exercise. All that was a good background for physical therapy school. So this space is likely that underlying teacher in me.
At one point in my life, I thought I wanted to be a preacher. Even made that known publicly. Nothing would have thrilled my mother more.
Alas, that was just not where I was supposed to go. But goodness knows I sure get preachy in this space. Maybe we all find our ministry in different places. One thing that my upbringing gave me was an overwhelming desire to make a difference in the world. I’m not sure where that came from, probably a combination of things. Probably Boy Scouts. My church for sure. I talked about a lot of those things a couple of weeks ago. In thinking about the “why,” I realize that a lot of it is my firm belief that sports are important. I am a prime example of how sports provide incredible life lessons. I am the beneficiary of those lessons. It has given me the career that I have and helped make me the man that I am.
Part of my “why” is that I want sports to be good for every kid out there. And I want sports to be safe for them. When I write about coaches and parents, my focus is really on providing what is best for the kids.
There are those that will say that sports are inherently dangerous and something to be avoided. That injuries accumulate and then come back to haunt you when you’re older. Not on my watch. The decisions that I make in the clinic always reflect the long haul. In other words, I will not let a young athlete do anything that will adversely affect their health in years to come. It’s always been that way. I never wanted to look at a 40-something with health issues that I could have done something about. I’m not going to be around (professionally, anyway) to see today’s athletes in their 40’s but that responsibility to them is still just as strong.
So when parents ask the question “should I allow my child to play,” I answer with an emphatic “yes.” First, if we don’t learn to be active as children, we are unlikely to be active as adults. And sports are our best vehicle for developing active children. The alternative is a sedentary lifestyle and the heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and early death that often accompany that.
Secondly, the lessons learned in sports can help us in our jobs, in our role as parents, in our community. Sports teach us how to be a good teammate, which translates to being a good co-worker. Sports teach us the value of hard work. Sports teach us how to be coached. Sports teach us that it is important to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.