There have been a handful of high school athletes in the news lately. I would love to say they were being written about because of their prowess on the field. Unfortunately, they have been singled out because of their inability to obey the law. They have been arrested for assault, battery, rape, sexual assault and robbery. As a mother, I am appalled. As an athlete, I am ashamed. But I am also convinced that these bad apples don’t spoil the whole bunch. I am convinced that these boys are not representative of the student athletes in Anne Arundel County.
When my son was two, I put him in gymnastics, tumble tots. I did this as a way to teach him how to take turns, wait in line and follow directions. I did it because I believed that being active would help him, not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well. Watching him outside of class I felt that this theory had proven correct. I noticed that where other kids would push in front at the playground or jerk things out of other kid’s hands, my son was willing to wait his turn and play nicely. Where other moms complained about not being able to get their kids to bed at night, I ended up with a child who was so tired out from his daily activity that he crawled into the bed willingly. Don’t get me wrong, he was not the world’s most perfect child but there were many areas of his life that I found improved by his being involved in a sport.
Over the years, my children have played tennis, rugby, soccer, baseball, basketball and lacrosse. As they approached high school I made it clear that they would be expected to play a sport there as well. They could try out for whichever team they wanted to but if they didn’t make it, they would run cross country or track. As a runner, I know that I am a nicer person when I get my run in. If I spend days cooped up in the house, working on the computer, writing articles on deadline, I am much more likely to be cranky with my family and friends. Seeing how much physical activity effects my attitude, I was determined to avoid as much of the teenage angst as possible by keeping my children involved in sports.
I am not some kind of childrearing specialist. I am a mom, like hundreds of other moms, who has read study after study about the positive effects of sports on a child’s life, now and in their future. Studies that say girls are less likely to be promiscuous if they are involved in sports, kids are less likely to do drugs or be involved with excessive drinking. I am sure there are parents out there who signed their kid up for soccer because they wanted him to be the next Renaldo; or football so they could be the next Manning. But I believe I belong to a whole generation of parents who signed their children up for sports at a young age because we wanted to raise responsible, well-rounded children. I believe with all of my heart that 99 percent of these parents are appalled by the behavior of this handful of players. I believe that 99 percent of these parents pay attention to their children’s activities and are aware of where their kids are and what they are doing.
I write this because last week, I read a lot of pieces in the local news about the feeling of entitlement in our student athletes and about the parents who would instill this sense of entitlement in their children. I don’t agree with these statements. I understand that in movies, the jocks are all jerks who think they are better than the next guy, but I ask you before you judge all of our athletes on the behavior of a few, come out to our schools, watch a game, watch the kids interact both on the field and off and watch the parents who are there game in and game out being a part of their children’s lives. I know there are bad apples. I have read about them. But watching my son and his friends and watching the other athletes at his school, I find it hard to believe we can lump them all into the same bunch.
Freelance writer, Ann lives in Severna Park with her husband and three children. When not at the gym or running outside, she spends every free minute chasing a four-year-old or running her older children to soccer fields all over two states. Read more by Ann at Ann’s Running Commentary and at Patch.com. She can be contacted at BrennanAnnie@verizon.net .