Monday, June 27, 2011

Safe Haven

Safe Haven
Many of us have been or seen people react to fear, uncomfortable situations or the grind of daily pressures. I remember watching my daughters cover their heads with the blankets on the bed when they were afraid. Getting under the bed itself is a popular reaction in the movies. I never really understood why but that was a place where they felt safe from whatever was outside the covers even if it was in the same room.
As adults, we have those places where we feel untouchable and it is comforting to know that you have that one place where you can go to feel safe. A place you come to know as your safe haven where your mind can be at peace free from distractions and pressures. This place is not a place produced through the consumption of alcohol or other mood changing substances. A place created through the consumption of mood changing substances does more than remove you mentally from the realities of your circumstances but also the realities of life.
Athletes have a common place they call a safe haven. For me and many other athletes, our safe haven is the clubhouse. The clubhouse is a place where athletes feel isolated from the outside world realizing that it still exists but is unaffected by it for 2 to 4 hour of the day. For this short period of time, players can be exempt from the normal rules and pressures of the outside world and only those whom they choose may enter into this paradise of peace.
The clubhouse, unlike the covers or bed, is not a hiding place. It’s a place where athletes can go to temporarily escape, gather their thoughts and be revived for the next day’s challenges. It is shared by others who see it as that place and welcomes the fellowshipping with others in search of that common peace. Everyone who shares the clubhouse is not in search of that safety or therapeutic value that it provides but they do respect the space and time it represents and understands its importance. However, since sports has progressed so has the demand for more access to the athletes forcing management to make the clubhouse more accessible to outsiders, mainly the media. Athletes are now looking to find refuge within their safe haven. Places, such as the player’s lounge, weight room and training room which are off limits to ever one except players and management, become regular hangouts. Occupants of the clubhouse are annoyed when their space is invaded by outsiders; people they feel do not belong. The clubhouse is more than the work place. It is a safe haven and that’s why it is guarded and protected with the strictest of rules. There are clubhouse rules, protocol and clubhouse etiquette that must be adhered to assure the sanctity of its existence.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Outside The Classroom

Outside The Classroom
Sports have been a part of many cultures for centuries serving a multitude of purposes. In earlier years, sports were mainly used as entertainment, some rather cruel displays of competition. Yet, people assembled to watch. Today, sports still serve as a major form of entertainment but the participants are viewed quite differently. Most of today’s athletes are considered celebrities or heroes. In addition to entertainment, sports are the life line of many families, communities, cities and states. Of course, this aspect of sports is limited to the professional and collegiate levels. Sports, being a cash cow in many respects, is often disregarded or disposed of at the lower levels where it does not produce income. States, cities and schools appear to deny or fail to realize the other values of sports. Convincing, our political and educational leaders that there are some things more important than the dollar, can be an almost impossible task.
The sporting arena is a melting pot where participants of all races, sizes, religions and sexes can come together to learn and display their athletic abilities and wits. Since everyone is not what we consider a true athlete, it is important to realize that sports provides a place where kids of all ages can experience more than the thrill of competition, the celebration of victory and the agony of defeat. Sport teaches as many lessons including some of the very virtues we hope our children will process at some point in their lives. I’ve always viewed sports, particularly baseball, as an extension of life giving all who play an opportunity to experience, learn, build and display life’s realities and virtues.
Sports provide an opportunity to experience the joy of success and victory as well as the disappointment of failure and rejection while learning the value of compromise and communication necessary for success as they realize that determination and patience is needed to overcome the feeling of failure and rejection. As we build character and relationships, we become confident in our ability to compete, never forgetting to display humility, acceptance, cooperation or trust.
With an understanding that there is an economic factor involved, I still feel that we are not taking full advantage of the opportunities that sports can provide. It’s very disturbing to hear that whenever budget cuts are mentioned in our cities and schools, recreational and sport programs almost always are at the top of the list and looked upon as having no real positive impact on the development of our youth. We constantly state that our children are our future but in my opinion, we fall short of completing the task preparing them to be successful in carrying the torch of leading or competing in a demanding environment. We are making a mistake in thinking that everything needed to succeed is learned in a classroom. I do not intend to imply that sports are more or just as important as an academic education but I am suggesting that there are many valuable lessons to be learned outside the classroom; lessons that can only be learned through experience, lessons that sports will expose our children to daily. I’ve played sports baseball all my life, in fact, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t playing baseball or some other sport. The experiences, through baseball and other sports, have helped me to overcome many of life’s cruel realities: failure, rejection, prejudice and disappointments while achieving a level of success with determination, patience, acceptance, cooperation and trust. Through these same experiences, I’m better prepared to handle many of today’s opportunities and accomplishments. The most important of all the lesson learned were humility and that there is reward in failure. Without question, I can say with confidence that there is plenty to be learned outside the classroom.