Dear Scotty and Kennedy,
By the time you are old enough to read this, you will have grown up in a home where your father’s football jerseys – both collegiate and professional – line the hallway that leads to our bedrooms.
Where we root for the Michigan Wolverines and Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday and the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Where your dad’s experiences on the field made for interesting chatter at dinnertime, and where I would regale you with stories about how running competitively for most of my childhood was one of the greatest things that happened to me.
You may have gotten the memo: Your father and I not only enjoy sports, we value it. But the reasons are far deeper than colors, chants, or an outcome displayed on a scoreboard.
We want the both of you to play something to see for yourselves.
It doesn’t have to be football, and you don’t have to run track.
Just play something, anything: tennis, baseball, softball, or basketball. Or you can choose cheerleading, swimming, lacrosse, soccer, or golf.
Frankly, we don’t care.
Because there are lessons we desperately need for you to learn.
I know what you’re thinking, sitting there on your bean bag chair, wearing headphones and staring into your i-whatever: Thanks, but I’m good. I’d rather stay right here in my room.
And I know where you’re coming from.
You’ve owned your own tablets since the age of two, and you’ve never lived in a world in which a screen cannot be manipulated with the swipe of a finger.
I get it. I do.
But there are some things that cannot be replaced with electronics.
Your handheld devices can’t teach you how to look someone in the eye with your head held high; they can’t teach you how to cheer someone up or cheer someone on; a tablet can’t teach you how to tell someone Congratulations with grace, especially when you wish you were them.
And, don’t get me wrong, I want you to taste the particular brand of rare, sweet nectar that only victory can give you.
But I want you to lose, too.
Yes, lose. You read correctly.
Because, as the saying goes, Winning isn’t everything.
Because developing poise is far more important than any win will ever be.
Poise comes when you’re sucking wind during the second half of track practice and you’d much rather be at home putting your feet up, but you stop your bellyaching and finish your laps strong.
But poise looks different in the workplace.
There, poise is resisting the temptation to turn your cubicle upside down when your boss tells you you’ve been laid off.
Or when you’ve got to get a story on the air in an hour because the six o’clock news waits for no one, the phone is ringing off the hook, and you’re hungry because you’ve skipped lunch, but you push on because a deadline beckons.
(This was once my reality.)
And then there’s perseverance.
You’ll come to know that quality when you desire nothing more than to remove your helmet, return it to the coach, and storm off the field, but you decide to honor your commitment and stick it out instead.
And, like poise, perseverance presents itself in a myriad of different scenarios throughout adulthood.
Like when your alarm sounds at 4 a.m. and you want to press snooze because you just got off your first job at midnight. But you can’t because you’ve got to cater breakfast for 100 people this morning at your second job.
(And this was once your father’s reality.)
You see, my sweets, these kinds of hard-earned lessons are more valuable than gold, and they never, ever go out of style.
And while participating in athletics isn’t the only way to hone these skills, it’s a fantastic place to start.
Teamwork, confidence, feeling the rush of endorphins, and maintaining good health are all gifts that await you when you play sports.
All of that. And much, much more.
I promise you it’s all worth it – the good, the bad, and everything in between.
Try to kick, hit, or catch that ball.
All you have to do is play something.