Lance asks: ‘To play, or not to play’The following is another “Have Fun or Get Out of the Way” column by award-winning Don Leighton and Mike Granlund and their alter egos, Lance Boyle and Billy Pirkola, which runs occasionally in The Superior Telegram.
With the new school year starting, learning that will be used for a lifetime begins, friendships will be made and renewed, and more responsibilities will be added from last year. It’s time to use that extra year of maturity and realize what is important: you and your parents are preparing you to be productive and successful members of society. This may sound corny, but ask any graduate of Superior, Northwestern, Solon Springs or Northwood high schools if they regret not taking advantage of their educational opportunities to improve themselves for the next 50-60 years of their life. When you think about it, there is a short period of time that is available to get ready for the working and family years when everyone wants to be successful.
One of the most valuable tools needed to be successful is to be able to work as a member of a team. When I was in business for 25 years, I probably interviewed more than 3,000 job applicants. The first two things I looked at were, did they participate in team sports and did they volunteer for community service to help others. Grade point averages, class rank, job and personal references (who in their right mind would list a negative reference), and a resume were nice to have but were given less weight when I did the hiring.
I know from what I hear on the street that there are many really good athletes that do not take advantage of their high school years and participate in as many sports as they are able.
It’s sad that there are those who could be multi-sport athletes but choose to concentrate on one activity.
Those who could be difference makers for their high school teams and don’t even go out are cheating themselves in addition to their school, friends and teammates. One day, and sooner than is thought, regret will become a factor in their lives. I know of what I speak.
From the fall of 1965 through the spring of 1969, I attended Northwestern High School and played every sport I could. I had the honor of playing with a lot of teammates who are still great friends almost 50 years later.
Four years of baseball, basketball and football, and one year of track occupied my time. Since I had no spare time, I never got in trouble and had to learn at an early age how to interact with others, how to be a team player, how goals were not individual but team oriented, and, maybe most importantly, how my actions and work ethic affected those who counted on me.
Too much homework or having to work are excuses realized by some but not most. Time management and less time on the cell phone, on the couch playing video games, mindlessly watching television and spending countless hours on the computer would allow the time for participation and homework. I played all sports year round, even in the summer, worked 15-20 hours in my dad’s grocery store and was a good student.
When I speak of regret, I also know much about that. Not a day goes by that I do not regret my decision to transfer colleges after my freshman year. I had a full scholarship at Northland College in Ashland. The terms of my scholarship were that I had to compete in two sports. Because of my participation in more than one sport in high school, I was a better all-around athlete than if I had concentrated only on one. My college was paid for, but as I said, I chose to transfer and gave up the next three years of paid schooling.
I think the answer lies many times with the parents. How many times do you hear a parent saying, “I don’t want to force Billy or Suzie to play if they don’t want to.”
Well, parents, buck up and take some initiative. You don’t have to force your child to participate, but you can certainly provide guidance. A kid is a kid only once. The friendships, the hard work toward a common goal, time management, the concept of belonging to something greater than oneself, the pride in success and the learning through failure are all part of healthy maturation.
Is there a parent that does not want this for their child? Then take advantage of team sports and the life lessons that can be learned. Parents, encourage your kids to be active physically and mentally.
It will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Help them to be on the field of play, not on the sideline as a spectator. Get them off the couch.
In addition to the lifetime social skills team sports provide, playing multiple sports has other advantages.
According to Dr. James Dreese, team physician and assistant orthopedics professor for the Maryland Terrapins, “Children participating in a variety of different sports develop a lot of different skill-sets in terms of coordination and muscle development. Playing a variety of sports that require a variety of skills helps to develop that better than playing one single sport that focuses on just a few of those factors.”
Researchers at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine found in 2011 that single-sport athletes were almost twice as likely to injure themselves as multi-sport athletes.
Single sport year-round athletes put stress on joints, specific muscles, ligaments and tendons that can create disposition to injury.
Sports performance scientist Dr. Chris Stankovich “warned that kids who specialize face psychological risks. They begin to look at their sport more like a job and run the risk of burnout.”
While I put my soapbox away, take it from someone whose greatest regret is I could have done more. I have always said, “Do what you can for as long as you can because there will be a time when you cannot do it anymore.”
Take advantage of what you have at your disposal to better yourself and prepare for the rest of your life. Believe it or not, team sports will teach you more about life than you can imagine.
Take it from someone who has regret and did not take advantage of his youth and opportunities to the fullest.
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