As a thirteen year old kid who experienced so much trauma and loss, I needed and relied on playing sports. It consumed my days; riding my bike to baseball practice and then racing to basketball practice after.
What was beautiful about being on that baseball field and basketball court is that they made me normal. They made me just one of the guys and all my problems went away.
On the court, I didn’t see police lights.
On the field, I wasn’t thinking about that drug trade.
On the court, my mom’s sickness and her diabetes didn’t exist.
On the field I was safe!
Sports not only provided me safety but it kept me busy and out of harm’s way while being in a challenging environment. Sports gave me structure, discipline, exercise and guidance. They would drop whatever they were doing to make sure that I was Ok. Sports gave me a reason to want to do well in school. If I didn’t do well enough in school, then I was not allowed to play.
My coaches were two of the biggest community members and supporters of youth in the city. My baseball coach was the Youth Director of Siedman Center, A Boys and Girls Club. My basketball coach was a mainstay at the Downtown YMCA as well as a coach for Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation. Both of them are strong black men.
I didn’t realize it then, but the two of them would play a huge role in my development. It was important for me to see someone that looked like me in a prominent and professional position.
Plus, my coaches were like father figures that taught me life-lessons through sports. At a time when my dad wasn’t always present, my coaches were there for me.
In sports, all labels are removed. A good coach doesn’t care if your child is ADHD. He will teach him how to make a jump-shot. A good coach doesn’t care if a kid is ODD. He will help him get a base-hit. A good team doesn’t care that they have a Foster kid on their team. They will view him as a friend that can help them win.
Today as a Foster Dad, I understand the power of sports. I encourage my kids to play a sport and will coach them when the opportunity arises. Sports gives a kid a platform to do well in a structured environment.
The importance of sports is the reason why I am a coach today.