I can’t pretend to have the answer for the malaise our society seems to be experiencing at this present time. Given the variety of incidents that are popping up in our news feeds, our newspapers and our TV screens, I’d be nothing more than a snake oil salesman if I claimed to have the answer. I’m just one simple man trying to think this through like everyone else.
The recent chaos has many searching for the answer; whether religious, political, or otherwise, someone is always passing blame on one topic, one segment of society, one cause, one group of people. It’s this approach that leads us down the dangerous paths we must navigate today. It’s unprofessional, it’s unfortunate and it’s simply unproductive. We repeat this vicious cycle in hopes to see different results; isn’t that the definition of insanity?
I look at a piece of the puzzle and try to understand what I can do, as a parent, a community member, a champion for local sports. Just how can I and others like me help steer this ship in the right direction? We won’t completely change the course, but we can certainly help avoid the icebergs. There is no doubt the world of organized athletics plays an integral part in all of this, in helping raise young men and women who contribute to society by using what they learned in some of the best, and toughest, moments of competition. Learning to fail is no longer a priority; it should be again.
A recent study released by Utah State University, one of the-most sports-crazy schools I’ve ever visited, pointed out that the average American child spends less than three years playing a sport and quits by age 11. The primary reason? They aren’t having fun anymore. This study goes on to say, “Instead of going out and shooting baskets with their friends, a growing number of kids would rather get their kicks by shooting their friends online while playing video games like Fortnite or Call of Duty.” A rather unfortunate statement, but one we all know to be true.
We can’t just blame the kids for not wanting to play. A group called Sports Matters has statistics that show 63 percent of school sports budgets are stagnant or decreasing while 58 percent of community-based sports fees are rising. This leads to another 42 percent who claim cost is a factor in not participating. This needs to be fixed, locally and nationally. If school sports budgets aren’t cutting it, then we need to raise more money with booster clubs and scholarship funds for youth athletics. We can’t price a generation out because it’s too expensive; there is a solution.
The value of athletic competition, camaraderie and the lessons learned are being lost on most young people who grow up without a healthy avenue to relieve stress, be aggressive and settle their differences in a controlled environment. Are then we are surprised when some of these young people grow up to be less than stable and commit these acts we seem to be reading about far too often? Hardly.
This certainly isn’t an issue that can be settled in this series of paragraphs, but it’s something being thrown out for thought. If our kids aren’t participating in an organized team activity, if they aren’t lining up and taking their frustration out on an opponent or an inanimate object, where do we think that fury is going? Recently, heavyweight boxing champion Deontay Wilder defeated Dominic Breazeale in a contentious championship bout. Both fighters said a lot of negative things about each other, Wilder even suggesting Breazeale could die in the ring at his hands. When the fight was over and Wilder was victorious, he approached his nemesis, hugged him and whispered in his ear. When asked what was said, his response was more prophetic than I believe he intended.
“I just told Brezeale that I love him and of course I want to see him go home to his family. I know we say some things that we mean sometimes but when you get into a fight, and you can settle your differences as men and you hold these gloves up this is what this sport is all about. ... I wish the world was like that, when we can handle things with our hands and at the end of the day, we can hug each other and say we live to see another day; that’s what it’s all about.”
Comments like that from the heavyweight champion certainly make us think about our direction. I’m hoping this sort of approach can catch on once again, and we can collectively use a platform like athletics to steer this society back on a course that brings the next generation into a much more productive and less destructive mindset.
Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are his own.