COLUMN: Why we play sports

I am often asked why sports are so important to me and why I am a passionate advocate for them.

If you had happened to be at the BCS Athletic Conference Red Division Track and Field Championship Wednesday night at Niles High School, you would understand why.

In the later stages of the meet, they run the 800-meters. As there are only six teams in the Red Division, the field in each event is pretty small, so everything that goes on during each event is easy to track.

During the girls 800, I noticed there was a runner from South Haven, who I assumed did not regularly run the race. She did not have the typical distance runner’s body, but she was on the track, and she was giving it everything she had to finish the race.

After crossing the finish line last, the runner began to struggle. I wondered how many times she had run the race? Anyway, it was pretty warm out, and she was exhausted and struggling to stay on her feet.

One of the Buchanan runners who had finished ahead of her noticed she was having an issue and came to her aid, helping the runner get over to the grass where she went down on her knees and eventually laid down to catch her breath and recuperate.

I doubt that the Buchanan runner even knew the girls name, but she knew she had to assist a fellow competitor. This is not the first time I have seen this happen at a sporting event, nor will it be the last time. This is what athletes do. This is what they have learned about being good people as well as being good athletes.

My concern for the runner faded away fairly quickly as she looked to be recovering as she sat in the grass. Soon, two more Buchanan girls joined their teammate and the runner from South Haven, making sure she was going to be okay and giving her encouragement before they had to get on with their next events.

It has been a long, and sometimes ugly year, thanks to a pandemic that has touched each and every one of our lives in some way. On a day when I spent part of it listen to the news about another mass shooting, it was nice to see this show of good sportsmanship. It renewed my faith in humanity, if only for a little while.

Why do I love high school sports so much? It is because they are about more than winning and losing. They are about being a better person and learning to deal with success and failure equally. They teach our children that being a good person is more important than winning an event.

High school sports teach us that being compassionate is important. It is a lesson that we can use the rest of our lives.

So, next time you hear someone running down sports as being overemphasized, tell them this story. Tell them there are a hundred more like it each and every day. This is why I defend high school sports and will continue to until I draw my last breath.

As adults, we can all be more like these athletes. As we try to return to a normal life post-COVID, let us follow the lead of our children.

 

Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at scott.novak@leaderpub.com.

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