When Does High School Football Season End In California Should You As Parent Encourage Your Child To Play Dangerous Sports?

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Should You As Parent Encourage Your Child To Play Dangerous Sports?

Should you encourage your child to play dangerous sports with the goal of becoming a professional athlete and earning money? De la chanson or it depends on the child, parents, talent, motive and opportunity. The answer is a resounding “no,” if you ask this parent of four. I will explain more about my rational later. To begin with, caveat emptor: sports, like other businesses, have an exploitative underpinning that few see or want to see. Being proactive is wise because advice after injury is like medicine after death.

There are functional skills that can be acquired through playing various sports: teamwork, perseverance, determination, winning and resilient habits. Also, playing sports can be beneficial for general health.

Obesity is a worldwide health problem with known consequences. Some of these consequences are high blood pressure, type II diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, joint disease, various cancers, to name a few. But don’t tell that to many Nigerians (especially Africans in general) who believe that being fat is a thing of glory, a status symbol, proof of the good life and wealth. Engaging in physical activity throughout life is a valuable habit that promotes both quantity and quality of life, according to health experts.

However, there is a huge divide between recreational and professional sports. No sport is without risk, but some are more dangerous than others. The cost of admission to a professional sports club can be prohibitive; honestly, it might not be worth it.

In my twenties I loved watching boxing. The fight between Sugar Ray and Thomas “Hitman” Hearns II comes to mind. Marvin Hagler, Larry Holmes, Michael Spinks, Mike Tyson, the second coming of George Foreman were my favorites. I watched those fights every chance I got. At a Pay-View event in 1987 in Oakland, California, I happened to be sitting next to a former boxer. As we left the stadium after the exciting fight, he made statements that stuck in my mind when a spectator lamented the millions the fighters had made. He said, “these fighters will pay dearly for the rest of their lives for the shots they took today.” He went on to say that “all the millions they’ve made today won’t be enough to heal a lifetime of pain and suffering.”

In retrospect, his statements were quite prophetic because little was known at the time about the effects of concussions, blows to the head, performance-enhancing drugs, Parkinson’s disease, memory loss and slurred speech. Some of the sports we send our children to today are just as dangerous, don’t let the money, fame and advances in medicine fool us. Remember that beef originated from the cow or as the Igbos say, “Suia ahu si n’ahu nama”!

Seeing the huge money and fame involved in these sports, it was only a matter of time before Nigerian parents and/or our children would start playing the trappings of these sports themselves. Some may want to take advantage of the obvious benefits without seeing the latent pitfalls. These parents and children should heed this quote from Einstein: “learn the rules of the game [first]. And then you have to play better [on and off the court] than anyone else”.

I must dedicate a paragraph and pay tribute to Nigerian, and indeed the world’s, athletic heroes. Dick Tiger, Christian Okoye, Hakeem Olajuwon and current professional players have set great examples on and off the stage. They remain a beacon of all that is great about Nigeria and Nigerians. When was the last time you heard something negative about these heroes? With their actions, they continue to polish the image of our Motherland, even though corrupt politicians and 419s are trying to tarnish its global image. As grateful Nigerians everywhere, I salute these evergreen heroes.

Are these reasons convincing enough to allow your child to play dangerous sports?

I hope Nigerian parents both at home and especially abroad do not push their children into these sports to make money. We are often people with wholehearted tendencies to make money at any cost. Some may want to dispel the myth and end up exposing themselves and their children to hidden dangers. According to one sports writer, “people are skeptical of Nigerian players; they are soft, not tough enough and too educated”. That’s a loaded statement! Trying to “prove a negative” can be costly. You may remember Loyola Marymount basketball star Eric “Hank” Gathers who died on the court in 1990 during a televised game. The youngster had a known heart condition, but continued to play without taking medication that made him too drowsy to reach his star caliber.

All sports have inherent risks. As the Italians say, “ogni rosa ha le sue spine” or “every rose has its thorns”. I like to ride bicycles. Many cyclists are injured and even killed while cycling. Just 3 weeks ago here in Austin, Texas, a bicyclist pushing his wheelchair was killed by a careless driver less than 10 miles from my house. Did you know that female soccer players have the second highest number of concussions, after American football players? Go figure it out.

However, some sports are like cigarettes: they are dangerous when played as prescribed. Some of the injuries are cumulative from a very early age (elementary and high school) and the ill effects are not fully felt until after the playing days have passed.

The chances of you making it to the pros are infinitesimally small. As a friend who practiced these sports professionally tells me, “people only see the few who have successfully jumped to the other side of the ridge.” But look down into the abyss to see the multitudes that failed.” The few who do make it to the pros end up living painful lives after their injuries start to manifest and they no longer have insurance benefits. They quickly squander their earnings due to poor financial management skills. Just like too many Nigerians refuse to plan for retirement, these athletes think they will always be in the money. Those who help you waste your resources will not be there for you when you need them. A wake, if it can only bury one after someone has died, will not last the living.

I am not advocating that you or your children avoid amateur or professional sports. I do not single out any sport. As I said, every rose has its thorns; no sport is without risk. What I recommend is that you do your own research before exposing your family to any sport. If after all that you still feel that sports is for your child and that he or she has the means to become one of the million winners, go for it. I wish your family well. Make sure that all the tinsel can be brass and not gold.

Ask yourself these questions:

How is it that very few offspring of professional players follow in their parents’ footsteps? Did the genes that brought their parents to fame suddenly “miss the way”?

Why don’t team owners, coaches, team doctors use their enormous influence to play their kids in these apparently lucrative sports? Other businesses, including preachers, train their children in the family business, why not as dangerous athletes? Could it be because they are the truth or, to paraphrase Ben Franklin, society writes injuries in dust and benefits in marble?

Is sports the only way to earn university scholarships? Academic scholarships are better than most sports scholarships. The former graduate more students than the latter. Reading will not bring you the above injuries.

If you don’t know any former professional players in a sport that your child might be interested in, search Google or Facebook to find someone to talk to. They are relatively easy to find and you will find them willing to help you. Listen openly to what they are telling you; don’t take their feedback as bitter comments from former players. I did this years ago before my kids were old enough to play popular American sports. As a proactive step, I started discouraging my sons from playing football. I was shocked when my high school student told me he was asked to try out for his school team.

My wife and our children were delighted with the news for the first time. I went into high gear to distract him from playing football. When he refused to give up, I blessed him, but I told him that I would not go to any of the games. They said he was good at it. He convinced his mother to go to one of the games. I should add here that she is in the medical field. After watching the game live and hearing the sounds of war… I mean the hitting on the field that day, she came home to join me in trying to talk our son out of the sport. The sounds of the hits were unlike anything he hears from football games on TV. My response was that if he thinks high school players hit hard, he can imagine how much harder high school and college players hit, not to mention professional players. I couldn’t stand watching my kid play football, I just couldn’t. Call me chicken!

After that first year of football, our son announced to our delight that he was giving up sports. I asked why, he said that none of his team members had been in advance lessons, in fact most of them had not been doing well in school, partly due to missed lessons due to injuries and/or sports distractions. This is the case in Africa and elsewhere. Some excel both in sports and in academics.

Thank God my son was not hurt and his grades are still high. He talked about serious injuries suffered by other football players, how they were encouraged to eat and lift more weights to get bigger, stronger and hit harder and run faster. He talked about using substandard equipment and trying to play for a college scholarship and professional prospects. Academics were not a priority, practice and winning games were! In the end, he said he learned that we wanted what was best for him both now and in the long term. He understood that we did it with and out of love. And we can live with that!

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