How Youth Sports Can Help Stem the Violence In America

Black Band

As a mother I am saddened by what our country and world is turning into. We spend so much time discussing how we can’t understand the hatred Terrorists have for us, only to have the same hatred for each other. I cannot imagine the depths of fear African American mothers have for their children. I sympathize with police officers families and the concern they have for their loved ones, my own father was a fireman for thirty years and knowing he may not come home from his job is nothing a young child should have to experience.

My question is: why can we not come together to fix this? Why can we not realize we are feeling the same hatred the terrorists are? People are making the same – mostly false – assumptions about each other, and it needs to stop. This country was built on finding a better place to live, where people had freedoms to speak, pray, and live as they wish. As we’ve evolved we’ve outlawed discrimination, because ALL men are created equal.

I have spent the last week at my son’s baseball tournament, he has played competitive sports for years. There are several lessons from sports which can be used in real life situations. In fact, this is the reason I love sports and encourage my two children to participate in them. With all the bad news these past few weeks, I have noticed the correlation more now than ever before:

1) We have met several people from all races and backgrounds through baseball. Most do not even play the sport, but have asked how the team is doing in the tournament. They have taken a real interest in our background (where are you from, etc). This has led to conversations about their lives too (my son played too, ah – Notre Dame, good luck). Relationships were formed with complete strangers as the waitresses asked us for daily updates, families at the same hotel for a basketball tournament wished us good luck and vice versa, and the boys met other kids playing in the lobby or at the water park.

What if we all recognized that we have something in common, no matter how small, and built upon the commonality instead of allowing our fears to rip us apart?

2) At the baseball park, teams support each other regardless of the fact they could be future opponents. Anytime a player was injured, everyone stopped what they were doing and had genuine concern for the player and his family. Showing obvious relief when they learned everything was going to be okay. People would even ask team members for updates on players health throughout the tournament.

What if we all showed concern for each other when we were down, regardless of how we felt about each other?

3) Of course things do get heated during the games, it is a competition. In all but one instance, cooler heads prevailed because the coaches and fans knew they were setting an example for the kids. If they behaved inappropriately, what were we teaching our boys about life? Teams or coaches that did behave poorly were immediately dealt with, leading to better behavior in future games and a shining example that no matter how upset or inappropriate a person is, they too have good in them, and that taking the time to talk out the issues was how to solve a problem.

What if we all took the time to consider who was watching our daily actions? What if we thought about what we were teaching our children with our behavior?

4) At the end of every game the boys congratulated each other on a game well played; even when they lost, even when they were upset about how they played, even when things didn’t go their way. They showed respect for their competition and appreciated the challenge because they saw it as an opportunity to grow, to become better … A challenge for the future.

What if we tried to see the good in every bad? To use every opportunity to lift each other up? To work hard towards fixing things in the future?

5) These competitors realized they had a lot in common after the competition was over for the day. They would trade pins from their team as a reminder of the teams they played and the diversity of the states from which they came. They wished each other good luck, even though they may have been playing against one another for the championship.

Youth Sports Help Stem Violence

What if we all rooted for each other in life? What if we looked for something that we had in common (i.e., a better America)? What if we realized diversity was a good thing?

 

6) Coaches were asked why they dedicated their free time to baseball. The answer was always the same, “I love to make an impact – no matter how small – on these boy’s lives. To see them take the lessons from baseball and apply them to life is so rewarding. To witness them turn into young men as they progress through baseball and life.”

What if all children had this type of positive influence in their lives? Someone who consistently challenged them to be better, to be respectful regardless of who they were dealing with and what the situation was, to learn how to deal with difficult situations in a positive fashion. To learn there are peaceful negative consequences for bad behavior. To know that the best thing to do when you get knocked down is how to be better prepared to get back up.

7) Umpires are the authority in a baseball game. They don’t always make the right calls. Sometimes these mistakes may cost a team the game, or even the championship. We often disagree with the umps call or decision and get fired up. When this occurs, you realize that cooler heads prevail and allow the coach to deal with the situation. The only thing a bunch of upset fans, yelling at an ump leads to is more bad calls. You learn to deal with the fact that some umps are bad, but most are good and are there because they love the game. Often times, I will get upset about a call, only to have my son inform me after the game the ump was right, he really was out!

I realize comparing a bad ump to a bad cop or a bad call to a life or death mistake is ludicrous. The lesson is that cooler heads overcome when dealing with unfortunate situations. If we want the police to behave differently, we need to realize most of them are doing the job because they love it … they don’t risk their lives everyday for the paycheck, which is historically a low paid job. Sometimes the “call” cops make is right, we just see what we want to see. Yes, there are bad cops but we shouldn’t take that out on all cops.

What if we worked together to solve the problem … Punish the bad cops, recognize when force is justified, and begin to build a better bond between the police and the communities they serve?

Every person, or family, can make a difference. When it comes to sports, my husband has volunteered his time for years and I know from feedback he has made a difference in many young men’s lives. Personally, I have challenged my kids to embrace diversity and to try to understand where other people are coming from.

I guess that’s a good place to start, but we all need to at least start. Talking and not doing anything will result in nothing changing. Let’s all make a commitment to start making a positive change in our communities, and to begin demonstrating appropriate behavior for our children to learn from. It seems that more and more it is our children who are teaching us just what class is.

 

This piece was written by my good friend, Jenny C., the recent violence in the country has pushed her to express her thoughts. She is not a writer by trade, but I am proud to be able to provide her this platform for her words. Please remember the spirit in which this piece was written, and keep comments positive.

Thank you, Alyson

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