Learning Sports Lessons Through Life

WRITER’S NOTE: This article originally appeared on the now-defunct Yahoo! Voices network on June 5, 2012. The article is no longer available on Yahoo’s network. Reprinted here as the author of original work.

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Life Lessons

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The decision, for me, was never hard.

Was it surprising to me? As a life-long sports participant or fan, it seemed inevitable that my children would be involved in sports. So it was surprising.

That was, until I met, Gage.

Gage is the youngest of my three children. An inquisitive, sensitive, strong-minded ten year old. His older sister and brother were big-time into sports. His sister was a premier-level soccer player until knee injuries did in her career. His brother was a club-level goalie and non-stop “full 90 minutes” player on his high school soccer team. Both kids enjoy watching sports too but my older son is by far, the bigger sports fan of the two.

From a young age, I knew there was something different about Gage. He just had a way about him that you knew instantly that he was created a bit different from the other two. We tried sports; soccer, track, cross-country. Playing sports just wasn’t his thing. Other than just trying to keep him active, I made the decision ‘not’ to push sports on him.

Gage liked to play. But Gage also liked Legos. He liked music. He liked video games. He liked reading. He liked his scooter. He liked cartoons. He liked just about everything else…but “playing or watching” sports.

Now before anyone gets the wrong impression, Gage is a normal, healthy young boy that I am completelyIMG_0052 2in love with. For him, sports is something Mommy likes. It’s part of Mom’s job. That’s the extent of his sports-affection. His mom. Me. 

And that’s okay. 

I was reminded of that this week with stories from two dads “in sports”. One, a new father, and the other, facing a life-challenge through the body of his son.

Both stories in their own way reminded me of how thankful I am for my youngest. He is teaching me lessons beyond the field, court, pitch or diamond. There is a life beyond sports. That “life” can be hard to see sometimes when your work revolves around the 24/7 world of sports & social media.

Life is building a Death Star out of Legos. Life is zooming down the street on a scooter. Life is having a sword fight with the enemy in the backyard…because you can. And yes, life can be sports too.

But it does not need to have a place in my life as the ‘be-all, end-all’.

Gage has taught me that. Sports isn’t everything. Life is. Sports certainly is a part of that. Gage understands it. He may not always get it when I say the Rangers, in June, I’m probably talking about the Texas Rangers and not the New York Rangers (sorry Rangers fans). If I say Seattle is playing, I have to make sure I explain it’s the Sounders, not the Mariners or Seahawks.

And when he says ship, he has to make sure to explain to me “it’s a Naboo Fighter, Mom” and not a boat for the water. These can fly in the air and “get the bad guys, Mom”.

Getting the bad guys. Living life.

Ain’t that the truth.

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Disposable Athletes

WRITER’S NOTE: This article originally appeared on the now-defunct Yahoo! Voices network on April 27, 2012. The article is no longer available on Yahoo’s network. Reprinted here as the author of original work.

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Disposable Athletes


Discarded tires.

Tires that have been worn, stripped, shredded, ripped, torn in half and dumped in an empty field.

There usefulness has expired. No longer wanted. Sitting in emptiness.

Discarded tire

What becomes of athletes whose usefulness is no longer needed?

When they are battered and bruised. Broken and stripped of talents and gifts that they were created with. Worn out beyond their life span.

Are they discarded like these worn tires? Or are they given the tools needed to succeed beyond their “sports-life span”?

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I often wonder if high school and college athletes are getting the education they need. Education as in life skills. Life skills for “after” sports.

Invariably, there will always be a post-sports life. What happens then? True, there are those athletes who have the skills to succeed but many don’t. Would we see athletes leave school early for the NBA or NFL, only to find they are no longer wanted or needed like before? Who fills their head with dreams of fame and fortune, yet reality screams ‘THERE IS MORE TO LEARN’?

We call them student-athletes. Athletes on the field or court. Students in traditional classrooms. What do they learn in high school and college? Reading, writing and arithmetic? If one has a learning disability, is he simply passed along so he graduates (high school) to get that scholarship or maintains his eligibility (college), all in the name of bringing glory to the school? The greater the glory….the greater the money that comes in right?

What if the “student-athlete” does not know how to track his money? Open a bank account? Use a debit card? Recognize the psychology (motives) of those around him? Does he know how to use social media effectively? Can he recognize a potentially “bad” situation? Has he surrounded himself with people who will give him truth not just a “yes”? Will he believe the agent that promises him first round draft status, despite his undraftable skills? What about making decisions for the future?

When the lights and cameras fade away, all the athlete has left is his life. Does he know how to make it without the sports, the fame, the fortune, the “yes” people, the lights, the adulation from fans? What then?

Discarded athletes. Discarded tires. 

NFL Drafts Alone Don’t Win Championships

WRITER’S NOTE: This article originally appeared on the now-defunct Yahoo! Voices network on May 9, 2012. The article is no longer available on Yahoo’s network. Reprinted here as the author of original work…for posterity’s sake. 🙂 

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Team ______. Your selections in this year’s NFL Draft did not meet my standards of mock-draftness. You get a grade of “D”.

NFL experts are paid to study. Study the players. Study the teams. Study the games. For some, it’s almost as if they are paid per word to speak, write and tweet.

Fair? Unfair? It depends on how much stock one puts in the “experts” opinions. 

In this year’s draft, take for example the case that is the Seattle Seahawks. The prevailing opinion among a variety of “draft grade” stories is that the Seahawks rate no better than a “C”.

When the Seahawks selected West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin with the 15th overall pick in the first round, “reach” was the word. He is a raw athletic talent with great potential; excellent pass-rushing abilities. How many teams, however, draft “potentials” in the first round on defense? Not many.

But does that type of a move justify grades? Sure, “experts” grade an entire team’s draft. But much of the grading stems from how well a team does with their first pick.NFL Drafts

In 2011, the Seattle Seahawks received unfavorable draft grades. One network (FOX Sports) gave the Seattle Seahawks a grade of “D”. Their first pick in 2011, offensive lineman James Carpenter, was a surprise even to his Alabama coach Nick Saban. That set the tone for the Seahawks draft grades. As the FOX Sports article states: “While they selected a few good players early on, Seattle picked them before many personnel evaluators felt they should have gone off the board.” 

Who else was drafted last year? John Moffitt (3rd), K.J. Wright (4th) and Richard Sherman (5th). All players, including Carpenter, received significant playing time last season, aside from injury.

And yet the grade was a “D”.

For contrast, look at the last two drafts for the Arizona Cardinals (the Seahawks NFC West division rival) and this past season’s Super Bowl champion, the New York Giants.

In that same FOX Sports 2011 article, the Arizona Cardinals were given a B+. 2010 was similar according to this AOL (Huffington Post) story with a “B”. What do two straight years of a “B” draft grade equate too?

Two straight years with no playoff appearances.

The New York Giants, on the other hand received similar grades to the Cardinals. In both the 2011 FOX Sports story and the 2010 AOL/Huffington Post story, the Giants received an average grade of “B”.

What did the two years of a “B” draft grade earn the Giants? A Super Bowl championship this past February. 

NFL draft grades don’t win championships. There are too many variables, including the draft, that go into a championship team. Team health plays a huge part. Coaching. Team chemistry. Free agent signings. Front office competency. Any number of factors can contribute to the making of a Super Bowl champ.

Solid drafts help but are not the end all-be all for teams.

Or fans.

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