By ALEX JONES
Sandusky High graduate attending Ashland University
"Sports do not build character. They reveal it. " - John Wooden
Along with my studies at Ashland University, I also am on scholarship to play football.
Now don't worry, this isn't going to be one of those articles in which I will go on and on about how great the game is and what it means to me. However, with the start of spring practices this past week, I have been thinking about what sports and other extra-curricular activities offer young people.
In our schools, especially in Sandusky, there were many kids who got bad reputations for being "thugs" or "delinquents" or whatever you want to call them. In many cases they gave the appearance of this being true but somewhere inside of them lies the character to be upstanding men and women. If you give them the opportunity to show these characteristics, many times they do so.
This is not just sports, either. Any situation in which they have made the choice to join a group under a common purpose and to reach a common goal will bring out the character needed to accomplish this task. There are many characteristics brought out in these situations:
-- The ability to deny self to accomplish what is best for the group or team. Anyone who has ever worked a job in which it was necessary to work with a group knows the importance of this characteristic.
-- Trust of those beside you. In a world where it is easy to distrust the people around you, these activities build bonds between the participants.
-- Toughness. Not only physical toughness, but mental and emotional toughness.
All of these traits are very important not only in situations during high school and college, but also in life after one's youth. It is interesting to note also (and this point was made by my foreign relations professor, Dr. Lyons) that in generations and civilizations past, this type of character was built through war and sending young men off to fight. These days we have substituted sports for war (an improvement, most would argue).
So the question becomes what happens to this type of character in people. If what I believe is true -- all of these traits are innate and that it takes certain situations to bring them out of young people -- then they must still be there after sports and other activities are taken away.
The problem then becomes whether or not one chooses to use these traits. It is very easy to disregard the rest of the world in order to further one's own self. It is very easy for a person not to trust the rest of the world.
In contrast, though, it takes people of real character to live their lives by trusting those around them and working to better their lives, their families' lives, and their communities' lives.
I am very grateful to those who believed in those values and tried to impart those beliefs on me. Men like Coach Franklin, Coach Talbot, and all those who influenced my younger years.
Take a moment to think who influenced you, to think what kind of character people should have, and what you can do to influence today's youth to be a generation of better character.