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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!

1 comment:

  1. If any of the followers to this blog know me, I am not an athlete myself, but I have four sons who are athletes, and I have watched this phenomenon in action. For my part, I read in a book once that athletes will turn on a sporting event, or even engage in a video game, when life is crashing in on them at work or home or with their family, because of the emotional release engaging in their "sport of choice" provides. It is empowering. The examples given in Oscar's blog (Te'o at Notre Dame and Michael Jordan) are real life examples of how athletes are able to soothe their emotions with sport and the relationships developed on their teams. As a mom of athletes, this is wonderful to know, that my sons learned valid coping mechanisms while participating in sports. Thank you, Oscar, for such a great and informative piece!