28th April 00:04
Pat McInally writes for NFL.com
Wondered what he is up to.
(Former Cincinnati Bengal Pat McInally is the only Harvard graduate to have
played in both a Pro Bowl and a Super Bowl and is the founder of Good Sports
for Life. The GoodSports program is dedicated to helping parents improve
youth sports by promoting meaningful participation, improved performance,
personal growth and creating positive experiences for kids playing sports.
Pat is Director of PacifiCare's GoodSports Program and is the father of two
(Nov. 24, 2003) -- This is such a challenging time for sports, on all
levels. We watch in horror as the Kobe Bryant case comes blasting into our
homes; we sit, amazed, as a gifted performer like Keyshawn Johnson gets
deactivated in the middle of the season, while healthy, by the Tampa Bay
Bucs because his attitude, not his skills, have deteriorated; we see
athletes in, it appears, every sport being tested for a new, powerful
"designer" steroid; and it seems we hear or read about a parent getting into
some kind of fight on a weekly basis in youth sports.
Although these are all sports related, in today's world, really, is it any
wonder some parents go off their rockers? We are dealing with so many more
dynamics -- from extended nuclear families, to single parents, to
dual-income households. Parents struggle to maintain a lifestyle they
desire, while trying to find quality time with their kids.
I don't care how many times people tell us that technology has made our
lives easier -- I don't buy it. We are seemingly on a lifelong stress-test.
A treadmill to technological purgatory. Wasn't life simpler when we had just
one phone company? How did we ever get along without cell phones? As I
recall, we did just fine but tell that to today's kids.
Today, I can be working out in the gym and the person next to me is
discussing the advantages of the Atkins diet, or talking business -- on the
cell phone -- while working out on the Elliptical machine. Today's parents
are spending more hours in the cars commuting, running errands, trying to be
a mom and a dad, flip-flopping work schedules and creating new words for our
dictionary every year.
Road Rage, latch-key kids, stay-at-home-moms. Our kids are exposed to
violence in ways our parents never would have imagined. And today's parents
are functioning at constant stress levels our parents never dreamed of.
Sports has always been the one safe haven. A family's escape hatch to
sanity. We left all of our troubles behind as we hit, kicked, threw and
caught balls of all shapes and sizes. Or we put all of our efforts into
rooting for our boys and girls and the home team.
I think of baseball's great seventh-inning stretch theme, and the line that
goes " ...If they don't win it's a shame." Meaning, we lost, that's too bad,
but we tried, and maybe we'll have better luck next time.
Now it seems that even for fans, "winning is everything". I'm sure the great
Vince Lombardi would take those words back if he knew how they were being
misconstrued and deformed. Lombardi accepted defeat with great graciousness,
because he respected the abilities of the opponents who defeated him. His
direction was to work harder, to get better, to find the will to win.
As much as he hated losing, he took positive steps in response.
Sport -- particularly for our kids -- is not just a national treasure, it is
an obligation. What these kids can take from it to shape their futures and
their careers is so much more important than how many games they won or
lost, or what their individual statistics were.
Virtually every CEO I have ever worked with has cited his or her background
in athletics, in understanding teamwork, as part of their foundation. And
virtually all professional athletes I have played with or against will refer
to their youth sports experience, the influence of their parents and the
shaping of their skills and attitudes by their coaches when talking about
how they got to where they are.
This is why it is so vital that we guard and protect the sanctity of
organized youth sports. That we continue to reach out to youngsters and give
them a positive experience that will stay with them throughout their lives
and future success in education, sports, and business.
It's tough on moms and dads to constantly have to explain professional
athletes' mistakes to disappointed youngsters or to rationalize irrational
behavior on the sidelines or in the stands by "grown-ups", but it must be
Sports are important in our culture -- over-emphasized, yes, but still worth
the effort to pass on their positive influence to our children. Good sports
begin with good parents, being good sports, on and off the field.