“Mandatory knowledge” was a key element for my classmates and me when we entered the United States Air Force Academy in 1967. Of the countless facts and dates I was required to put to memory, the one that has endured the years is a quote from General Douglas MacArthur to the 1946 graduating class at West Point:
“On the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days and other fields will bear the fruits of victory.”
While I believe professionalism has destroyed the purity of athletic competition, I still believe in the value of team sports. Team sports teach us about our ourselves and our limitations; they teach us how to cooperate to achieve a common goal; and they teach us how to respect every man – even our opponents – in the heat of the most intense competition. For these reasons and others, the Vitruvian Man participates in team sports and encourages young people to do it as well.
“Team sports” is as simple as participating in a ‘chip up’ game down at the park, even with a group of people you may not even know. I’ll still throw my basketball in my backpack and head down to the park on my bike. At a minimum, I’ll just throw up some shots. Typically, I’ll find one or two players who are up for a game of H-O-R-S-E. On a good day, I’ll get into a full-court 5v5 game. I’ll play with high school kids, college students, dads, brothers, uncles and grandfathers. Someone is always there.
Unfortunately, the dollar has captured control of youth sports, but there are still affordable solutions for your children most often managed by the parks department or the church. These opportunities are far more affordable than the typical ‘club’ program that promises your child a college scholarship followed by a professional contract, neither of which should be the exclusive motivation to participate in a sport. If you encourage your child to play for those reasons, you need to re-evaluate the purpose of sports. If you and your children play “for the love of the game,” you are on the right track, and you can reap the more long-lasting rewards that go well beyond trophies and dollar signs.