As a child, I participated in organized sports. The earliest team I remember being a part of was a cheer leading squad called the Pearl Harbor Steelers. Sometime between 8 and 10 years old. I only know that because my dad retired from the Navy when I was 10 and his last port was Pearl Harbor, for 2 years.
It is funny, my favorite football team has been the Pittsburgh Steelers for as long as I can remember. I have always attributed my loyalty to Mean Joe Greene and Terry Bradshaw. Writing the previous paragraph made has me questioning myself. Did my loyalty actually begin as a cheer leader?
The only other time I recall being in organized sports was in High School. In High school I ran Varsity Cross Country and played JV. Basketball.
I was never the rock star athlete. I chose sports I thought were fun and I did them for the enjoyment.
I didn’t realize at the time what sports were teaching me. Sports teach you how to plan, strategize, work as a team, push through the hard times,how to handle criticism and coaching, never give up, to get back up when you fall down, and that I can do anything I put my mind to.
I remember working my tail off to win.
I can tell you that in High School, I was almost always dead last on my team. There were only 3 meets that I earned a medal in and they were not for individual placing, They were medals because enough members of our team crossed the line. I was never going to be first, second or third. It wasn’t in the cards. I could promise you I wouldn’t quit, no matter what. I had team mates who would finish early enough that they earned us the team the medals. We just had to have enough people finish to get team medals. There was one cross country meet that really stands out where our girls team would not have gotten medals had I not crossed that finish line. I was part of the team and they needed me.
The lesson I learned was I didn’t have to be first. I could be dead last. All I needed to do was finish. I needed to not let my teammates down. There was a friendship formed that for many of us still remains almost 30 years later. We knew we could count on each other.
I feel really conflicted by today’s version of organized sports. On the one hand, I see children who are getting exercise, working as a team, and learning to follow rules. On the other hand, I am not a believer that everyone wins. Participation trophies don’t teach children how to deal with failure and losses.