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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why Athletes Need Sport

Peeps –
I thought I would create a quick post today to lend some insight into the mindset of athletes and why sport is so important to them…both on and off the field.
We’ve discussed in previous articles that athletics are important in developing young people and how coaches are vital in steering those teachable moments for them. Today I want to take it step further and speak to how much sport impacts the emotional stability of athletes given life’s unforeseen events.
Speaking from personal experience, football has been a savior for me. Coming from a town of three stoplights in North Central Florida there was really nothing to do…sports, especially football, was all there was... When things were difficult off the field, I always had practice and games to look forward to as my outlet. No matter what was going on in my life – that small two and a half to three hour block of time for practice and games was something to look forward to.
Even at the collegiate and professional level we can see how athletes gravitate towards their teammates and the sport they love in order to help them cope with difficult situations off the field. Let’s look at Brian Urlacher from last season… he lost his mom during the week of a game. Just like most athletes, Urlacher was exceptionally close to his mom calling her his “heart.” Urlacher went home for a couple of days to spend time with his family and then returned to the team in time for the game that same Sunday. Urlacher’s extended NFL family was a huge part of him being able to effectively deal with what otherwise would have been an even more devastating loss.

Notre Dame's Manti Te'o
Photo: Associated Press

Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o lost not only his girlfriend, but his grandmother within hours of each other last week (read more). How could anyone stay focused on a game? I mean, it’s just a game right? Still Te’o remained with the team in order to help rally the Fighting Irish to a huge win against Michigan State. His brothers (teammates) and the extended Notre Dame family came together to offer a huge showing of support for Te’o as be battled the emotional exhaustion of loss off the field.
The media would have us believe that these two athletes were making a huge personal sacrifice to stay with their teams. That, in part, is true. However, I would argue that it was just as important for them to be with their teammates for support and strength through sport as it is for them to be with their immediate families in these devastating times of grief.
Please understand that I am in no way trying to minimize the pain that these two men have endured. I'm merely trying to shed some light on the fact that sport is so much more than just a weekly competition... sport is life. Simply put, without sport where would we be?
Are these two instances a coincidence… or by design? I'm sure there are other examples that we can take note of throughout athletic history... give it some thought. Michael Jordon holding the NBA World Championship Trophy after losing his father and openly weeping on national television - sound familiar?
What about you?How has sport lifted you up during a dark point in your own life?
Hmmmm…. Again seems sport has proven itself to be about more than just wins and losses.
Long live sport!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Who's Responsible?

Peeps –
First, let me apologize for the absence of Coach Holtz on TNNDN Network’s “Ask Oscar” radio show last night. The good news is that Coach has promised to do another show soon and we will more than make up for the time. Work on polishing up those questions and be prepared to fire at will!
That said there was a point raised on last night’s show about the NCAA, universities and where their responsibilities lie with the athletes who are “Violating Team Rules.” I candidly said the NCAA should impose some sort of monetary fine system that would, in fact, hold not only the student-athlete responsible, but the institution of the student-athlete more accountable.
Again, I’m not condoning the behavior of student-athletes who in fact break team rules. Yes, there is free will involved… free will on both parts – student-athlete and institution. Policy is policy. If you break the laws there are consequences. Simple right? However, where is the institutions responsibility for the athletes they employ? All employees offer “benefits” to those who work for them (at least if the employees are legal to work here in the United States).
Are we so na├»ve to believe that the institutions who benefit greatly from what these student-athletes accomplish in their respective fields of competition are “giving” the student-athlete something for free? Do you really think the “free” education isn’t paid for every day?

Tyrann Mathieu
Photo by: Kevin C. Cox
Here’s my bottom line idea regarding the NCAA. If the institutions who employ these student-athletes are the sole beneficiaries of said revenue generated by the student-athletes (i.e. jersey sales, ticket sales, pep rally ticket sales, hats, programs, t-shirts, etc.) then why aren’t they subject to the same punishment as the student-athletes who break the rules. In essence they “own” them. When you’re an owner you can’t just turn your back on the business and let the brunt fall on the shoulders of the employees… or maybe you can. It’s happening daily.
The issue is that institutions want to win so terribly bad they will afford a high risk student-athlete an “opportunity” knowing full on well what the highest probable outcome will be. When said student-athlete “fails” to “live up to his or her potential” the institution walks away with no penance to immediately find another commodity with which to fill the vacated spot. I’m sorry, but where is the fairness in that? Have we reduced our young people to nothing more than money-generating entities to be tossed back at the first sign of ugly? So you’re telling me the coaches and administrators don’t know about the issues these kids have in advance?
Call me a bleeding-heart liberal if you’d like, but I have a sneaking suspicion that if the NCAA imposed a monetary fine system for the institutions regarding the violation of its substance abuse policy of say $150K for the first offense, $500K for the second offense and loss of ALL scholarships in the program for a year on the third offense I’d wager some changes to who, what and how the recruiting process might change. Not to mention a proactive stance by the institutions to get their “commodities” the help they need. Help extending far beyond just what they (student-athletes) can do for the institutions, but rather for themselves. Look, coaching is supposed to develop young people. How can we say we’re developing them when in essence we’re using them… and when they’re no longer usable we turn our backs on them and replace them using a seemingly infinite “lead” source?
Damn… my head hurts. Maybe I've concussed myself from banging my head on the proverbial "it ain't gonna change" wall.
Just sayin'