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Why Do Sports Matter?

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One father's explanation to his son on why sports matter and why he should play.

Raising you up
Raising you up
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Dear Son,

I don't normally write to you in a letter, especially since for the most part we talk quite frequently together about most things.  I thank you for the fact that you open up to me, at least some of the time, and love the fact that you feel comfortable enough with me to do so.

I know that you are somewhat interested in sports, although I'm sure a lot of that has to do with the fact that Mom and I spend so much of our free time watch games, talking about games, and having people over for Super Bowl parties as we did this weekend.   I do not want to force you to do anything that you have no interest doing and I know that in many ways you would rather be doing something that is more game orientated than sports oriented, and I love that.  And here is where the "but" comes in.  There are reasons, other than seeing you on a playing field as I was so often as a kid, that I think it is important to actually participate in something sports related, especially in a team.

Some of the reasons are clichéd.

1.You get to learn a lot about how to deal with other people.  Any time you are playing in a team format, you are learning from others about what to do and what not to do, even if it is only by osmosis.  Being around others in a sports environment is so important because those people tend to be quite honest with you, even if you don't want to hear it and that is a fantastic way to grow.

2. You get to learn how hard you can push yourself to improve and succeed.  This is one of the most important things about sports because in order to improve, you must have repetition, hard work, and a determination to not quit in the face of hardship.  This is something that will help you for the rest of your life.  In work, in friendships, and especially as a husband and father later in life.  Nothing worth having is given to you.

3. There are health benefits from running and improving your body.  Now you are in quite good shape as it is, but it is always nice to get outside and move your body.  You don't need to lift weights or run sprints as of yet, but just enjoying fresh air and the ability to move often is beneficial for both your mind and body.

All of these are good reasons and they have served me well and helped me become the man and father to you that I am today.

Some of the reasons aren't show clichéd though.  They are more individual and therefore, are reasons that you might not think of off the top of your head.  (Although as my son, our thought processes align more than I sometimes think that they do, except when it comes to farts, so who knows).

1. You will become more intelligent.  Most people do not understand this, but anytime you are doing something that changes the way you think or challenges you to think in a different way, it makes you smarter.  When I was playing tennis, I would always think "what are the strengths and weaknesses of my opponent and how can I exploit them in order to win?"  The reason I almost always won, wasn't because I was always the most talented, but because I worked my mind hard and I was able to find weaknesses in my opponent in ways that other people were not.  This quality has allowed me to do things like write and come up with business ideas because I see things differently than others.  Much of those skills were honed by playing sports.

2. You learn how to live with defeat and move on.  This is something that can be quite hard to do and even though you have vastly improved over the years with this, it is still something that you can improve on.  As I always say to you "You have to work at something in order to get what you want."  More importantly, "you have to lose in order to know how to win."  Only by losing do we give an honest assessment of ourselves.  We take inventory in our short comings and we find ways in which to improve so that we can win or get closer to winning next time.  It's a lot like science, where trial and error is what success is built on.

3. You become more honest, at least with yourself, and then fight for what you really want.  The challenges you face in sports are unlike those in any other form of life, other than military service, the latter of which is massively more grueling by the way.  Because of that, you are forced to look in to yourself, deeply in fact, and see what you have there to give.  This allows you to find strengths that you did not think you had, work on weaknesses that you may not otherwise know that you have, and become someone better than you ever could have without it.

None of this is to say that if you do not play sports or get more into sports that you will not be a good person, have success, be able to be a great father later in life.  I have great faith that you are and will become all of those things.  What I am saying is that sports matter because they can improve your life drastically and give you something to talk about, experience, and enjoy with others (especially Mom and I) that you otherwise would miss out on.

Finally, keep your head up my son.  Keep fighting hard for what you want to get out of life.  And keep an open-mind about playing sports in the future.  Most of them may not be for you, but if nothing else, please for the love of god, if you remember nothing else from this letter, always be a Hokie!!!

Love always,