As we head into a more-or-less “normal” sports summer it is perhaps time to back up and once again put sports in the proper perspective.
Sports are a huge part of our lives. They provide fun, games and distraction. For athletes they provide exercise, competition, comradery and a sense of belonging. For young athletes they provide a learning experience about teamwork, friends, patience, endurance…the list goes on.
What sports do not do is define us as individuals or members of society. They might, in some cases, simulate life. They are not life. You do not have to play sports or root for a team to be a good person or to enjoy life.
I often write about the joys and benefits of athletic competition, but the truth is a young person can get the same joy and learn the same lessons being a member of a band or a chess club or, dare I say it, playing a video game.
It seems that, recently, we are seeing emotions get out of control over something as inconsequential as a baseball or a lacrosse game. To be competitive doesn’t mean to lose control or perspective. Most really good athletes are competitive to the max and most of the really good athletes have the ability to focus on the task at hand.
The same could be said for a really good musician, a really good painter, a really good poet, a really good swimmer, a really good speaker, a really good rancher or a really good sprint car driver.
Young people in Petaluma are fortunate enough to have a myriad of sports and activities to meet their needs and desires. From badminton to boxing, there are opportunities for every young person. I cringe when anyone, young or old, tells me, “There is nothing for kids to do in Petaluma.” Go sell someone else the Golden Gate Bridge.
In my line of work, I meet athletes of all sizes, shapes, races and abilities. I was fortunate enough to know Elijah Qualls, a 300-plus pound football player from the mean streets of Sacramento who ended up in the NFL after passing through Casa Grande High School. I am fortunate enough to know Minna Stess, a 100-pound skateboarder from Petaluma who has already been on ESPN, won a national championship and is probably on her way to the Olympics.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to play kickball in the street with a bunch of kids using a ball someone bought at the Dollar Store.
It doesn’t matter the sport or the level of skills and abilities, sports are still sports. There is life after football for Elijah. There will be life after skateboarding for Minna. There will be life after kickball for the street kids.
No matter the sport, the game, the avocation, the passion, the skill level, sports are, at their essence, a game, and should be played for fun.
Why would you gripe, fight or argue over something that is fun?
(Contact John Jackson at [email protected])