At one time, sports and athletics defined me. Those days feel long gone; although I have only to look back to the beginning of freshman year to find a teenager enthralled by the desire to compete. I began playing sports with soccer when I was five, then shortly thereafter followed up with baseball and basketball. Three sports kept me going year round, and I loved it. Obviously sports have been an influential part of my upbringing.
My father was instrumental in the early years. He grew up a baseball fanatic, and remains one to this day keeping up to date with “his” baseball team in St. Louis. He made the push early on for me to join a team. I reluctantly agreed to sign up for soccer in kindergarten, only to discover I loved the game. I instantly agreed to any and all sports teams that I could sign up for. I was even mad that I couldn’t sign up for more sports because some sports seasons overlapped. My dad would always be the one to pick me up from practice, and give me tips on how to improve my swing or my shot. Not unlike many father-son relationships, my dad and I bonded the most playing catch with a baseball or shooting some hoops in the backyard.
Not only did I like to play sports, I was a die-hard spectator. I would never think of missing Monday Night Football, or dare go to the bathroom when the Mariners were up to bat. However, I started watching fewer sports on TV, and spent a little more time playing them. The amount of time high school sports take up definitely restricted my ability to watch TV.
I dropped both soccer and baseball along the way to focus on basketball, what I considered to be my main sport. I found high school basketball not to be as glorious as I had envisioned it would be. I was good, but so were many of the other kids. The time and effort I put into training in the off-season ultimately amounted to a seat on the bench. Not to say I didn’t play, but the ratio for playtime to practice time didn’t please me. The love for the game sort of disappeared once I entered high school. One day it was there and the next it wasn’t. The strong competitive nature of the game overtook any other feelings I used to have for it. A rigorous practice schedule on top of a few honors classes became an obstacle each and every year. It felt more like attending a job or an obligation rather than the wanting to be there. Still I stuck with it, especially with strong advice coming from my dad that I shouldn’t quit.
All of these are clear to me: sports helped me get closer with my dad, they consumed countless hours of both playing and watching them, and they preoccupied my after school life for three years of high school and two of middle school. I am not certain however whether sports have been an overall positive or negative experience. Most of the games that I thought I would remember for the rest of my life, are foggy memories all jumbled together. They’re insignificant to me now. The phrase, “it’s just a game,” makes that much more sense to me as I’ve matured.
Though I might choose to do it over if I had the chance to, like picking soccer over basketball, or maybe stayed with them both, I don’t regret the path I took and where I ended up. I made plenty of friends through school sports that I otherwise might not have had the chance to meet. It felt good to represent my school and wear the red and white jerseys with pride. Yet I also feel as though basketball kept me from getting involved through other mediums. I always felt that I had too much on my plate already with basketball, that joining a club like debate, or even drama seemed unreasonable.