It is almost like clockwork. During an interview, I will ask a young athlete what he wants to be when he grows up, and about half the time he will tell me, “I want to play in the NBA” or “I want to play in the NFL.”
Deep down I always think to myself how unlikely this is. Because, in truth, there is a high probability that none of the hundreds of athletes that I have met in my 18 months at the Delta Democrat-Times will have professional careers in the NBA or the NFL. If we are lucky, we might have one or two.
But still, even though I know this, I will never say anything to discourage a kid from trying to live his dream. Who am I to say that?
We all, especially youngsters, have to have goals in life to accomplish. Why not dream big?
Most of these young men will find out, eventually, that professional sports were not in the cards for them. This does not mean they should not give it a shot while they still can.
I have been so impressed by many of the young athletes I have covered while working in Washington County. Interviewing them after they have accomplished something remarkable, I find myself, too, getting caught up in their sporting achievements. It truly seems like there is nothing, in these moments, that they cannot accomplish.
Then, I begin to almost get a little wistful when I think about how hard life is for all of us humans, even those who seem so young and strong at the moment. While the fortunate of us will have many moments of joy in our lives, we all will have our share of struggle and despair. This is true for both the most and least popular of us.
The most important thing, of course, is for these young athletes to receive a great education.
Even if they dream of being a professional athlete, it will not hurt them to have a great education to fall back on. This gigantic job falls on parents and educators in our community.
The truly great coaches care more about how their athletes perform in the classroom than how they perform on the playing fields. Sports are just there to help teach them values like discipline and teamwork.
If our children learn how to work hard and play together, they can accomplish great things in their lives, even if they never make it to the big leagues.
David W. Healy is the sports editor of the Delta-Democrat Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.