There May Not Be Anything As Important As Sports
As I left for practice last Wednesday, crowds were making their way toward the U.S. Capitol. By the time I got home four hours later, we were in a new age.
When it comes to shaping America’s next generation, high school coaches may well be the most important people in our society.
In the face of tragic events, we often say - rightly - that there are more important things than sports.. As I sat home that evening and watched the desecration of the Capitol occurring, however, I found myself more motivated to return to the practice field the next day. Not because football is more important than what is happening at the moment, but because what happens at practice every day at fields and on courts across the nation, is one of the surer vanguards we have against a repeat of that tragedy.
When I wrote the introduction to my new book, 30 Days with America's High School Coaches, last Wednesday's events were still in the future. Since January 6, however, my belief in how I opened the introduction to the book has strengthened:
“When it comes to shaping America’s next generation, high school coaches may well be the most important people in our society.”
My confidence in this statement is bore out by a lot of research.
The National Federation of State High School Associations provides a lengthy list of research that shows:
Students involved in interscholastic sports were more like to vote, volunteer, and do well occupationally 8 years after high school.
At-risk youth who participated in interscholastic sports were more likely to attend college three years post high school
High school athletes are not only healthier while in school, but they stay healthier long after their playing days are over.
However, it was a column in the Washington Post by Sally Jenkins that I believe really captures what sports does for us as people. Jenkins writes how athletes learn the critical distinction between "necessary roughness" and "unnecessary roughness." Players stop hitting when the whistle blows. Ejected players may be aggrieved, but they leave the field willingly.
"Our sports are not perfect," she writes, "but one of their worthiest qualities is they still recognize and honor covenants. What is a covenant? It’s an unbreakable spiritual and material promise to limit our behaviors for common good."
In these unsettled times, it's important to remember all that sports provides our youth today, and our society tomorrow.