I did not play sports. I was a theatre kid and a book kid all the way. But I have an appreciation for sports, for athleticism and teamwork.
I understand what makes a good game and the incredible commitment and discipline it takes to play sports at a high level. I also know that you don't have to be Steph Curry or Simone Biles to benefit from playing sports.
In a weird twist, Real Sports is one of my favorite tv shows. (I love hearing what makes athletes tick.) I always enjoy reading sports fiction like The Crossover by Kwame Alexander.
As I'm listening to Josh Bell (that's Filthy McNasty to you) tell his story, I reached out to my friends and colleagues who did play sports to find out what I missed:
What impact did playing sports have on you?
"I did a year of Pop Warner football in elementary school, but really got involved in sports in high school, football, track, and bowling. Those experiences really focused the concept of what a team can accomplish, compiling individual strengths and dispersing challenges across a group. Individually, it reinforced my confidence and provided concrete examples of "getting up every time that you're knocked down". There hasn't been any real time sense that I haven't applied some of those lessons learned as an athlete to my life."--Kyle C. |Community Member
"I enjoyed playing sports because you get to set a goal and achieve it or not and you could see progress and get little wins but you're never actually finished until you quit playing."--Amber B. | Community Member
"For me playing sports was a way to feel free. I ran track and played basketball. When I was running the 220 it was like there was no one on the track but me until the race was over. I felt so powerful. I learned how to trust people on the basketball court. Your team was there thru the good the bad and the ugly (missing an easy shot) I loved the competition of sports."--Kim C. | Richland Library
"I swam and bowled. Swimming allowed me to travel to places throughout the Caribbean like Curaçao, Trinidad, Dominican Republic…. and also Mexico. I learned that I am not a competitor- I did better at practice than in meets. Some days I enjoyed being part of a group- some days not so much. I am grateful for the experiences and friendships."--Angela L-B. | Community Member
“Basketball Rule #1
In this game of life
your family is the court
and the ball is your heart.
No matter how good you are,
no matter how down you get,
on the court.”
— Kwame Alexander, The Crossover
For some people, it's about the connection:
"I played a lot of sports as a child (basketball, volleyball, softball, soccer and a short stint as a cheerleader). I mostly played for the camaraderie. Growing up in a town of 1400 people, all of my friends played the same sports."--Kara C. | Richland Library
"I played softball most of my life and some basketball. You build relationships with your teammates that last a lifetime. It felt good to be cheered on whether we were winning or losing too."--Rachel R. | Community Member
I also loved hearing how my friends and colleagues discovered themselves in sports:
"For me, sports gave me a chance to prove that being a girl wasn’t a weakness or that my only choice was to sit quietly in pretty dresses while the boys had all the fun. I was able to be loud, take up space, and be unapologetically me."--Kristi S. | Community Member
"Sports made me feel strong and powerful (even if fleetingly!) as a high schooler, at a time when I was so self-conscious and not self-assured. Tennis was the perfect sport for me because it helped me grow individually and as part of a team."--Georgia C. |Richland Library
"I played softball and was in a bowling league as a kid and into my teens. I think the biggest thing I learned about playing sports was the feeling of being part of a team and learning how to lose as well as win. Being able to take pride at being good at a sport individually is such a boost of self confidence too."--Chantal W. | Richland Library
"Sports helped me conceptualize my body as a tool and made me claim agency. Made me realize I'm not just for laying around and looking pretty--I can use this body to achieve goals and accomplish feats I never imagined. Body positivity, all the way!"--Alex B. | Richland Library
"I played competitive soccer for the majority of my life—from age four all the way to college. I learned so much as an athlete and a member of a team—things that went far beyond the field. In fact, when I was 20, I suffered a career-ending injury and thought my life was over. All those years of hard work gone in an instant. I was no longer A soccer player. I was a young adult without a defined identity. In the end, those skills that I learned from sports—team work, failure, tenacity, grit—ironically opened a lot of new doors for me and new avenues of joy. Looking back now, I can see that while sports may have been my passion—it was also a means to build a solid foundation for the person I turned out to be."--Laura M. | Richland Library
"I could write tomes about sports and it’s impact on me. Some of my highest heights and lowest depths have been sports related. Sports taught me individual courage. How to face an imposing even superior opponent and still give my all. How to survive disappointment and still find joy. To be accountable and hold others in account. What camaraderie can truly mean."--Darion McCloud | Community Member
I can think of no better words to leave you with than more from Kwame Alexander as he reads The Undefeated:
Book Trust: Kwame Alexander reads The Undefeated
For more sports stories, check out one of these inspiring middle grade or young adult novels: