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Ben Fields: Little one destined to be an athlete

Mar. 31, 2013 @ 11:19 PM

Every day, I learn something valuable from people who are half my age.

Covering high school athletics, I talk to student-athletes and their coaches, and I'm simply in awe of how much work and dedication these kids put in, along with some of the social sacrifices they make to set a bright path for their future.

Not all of them are going on to be college or pro athletes, but they all seem to understand that if you want a particular result, you have to work for it.

The goal for some is big, for others not as much. But everyone benefits to a degree by being part of a team, and going through that team experience.

They do all of this while having to keep grades up, and dealing with all the crap that comes along with being a teenager. On the other side of the coin, let me give a quick shout-out to all the parents who have to deal with teenagers, while trying to impart crucial life lessons and hoping you are laying the groundwork for a solid future.

Which brings me to my point.

In a few months, and it's getting closer much faster than I expected, my wife will give birth to our first child, a son.

There is so much we are trying to get ready for, and I'm sure we will have our hands full from day one just covering the basics, without much time to think about anything but each situation as it arises.

Behind that are all the hypothetical questions that we don't voice. Situations that will undoubtedly arise as little Fields grows up to be teenage Fields, and beyond.

One thing that we've decided, though, sight unseen, years uncounted, is that this kid is going to be involved in organized athletics.

It can be whatever sport he wants, curling being the one exception, and he doesn't have to be a star.

I won't yell at referees, and I won't yell at my kid if he's watching a butterfly stuck out in right field.

Sure, I've seen plenty of the negatives of organized sports covering games, but those rarely center around the kids themselves or the coaches.

There are highs and lows, but I've largely been impressed with the character and the drive of the athletes I've encountered.

And sports did a lot for me growing up, even though I didn't know it at the time.

I played in little league, and JFL and was briefly part of a travel soccer club.

After all that was over, my parents shrewdly realized that if I didn't have some structure in my life, I was going to wind up in jail.

I won't tell the whole story now, but it involves a malfunctioning bottle rocket and a swathe of scorched earth.

So I landed on the cross country team.

I was never a star or anything like that, but as I struggle with my weight in my 30s I've come to realize that running three to five miles six days a week for five years will keep your body in shape and your mind sharp.

As I look back, the discipline and structure was something I sorely needed, and the sheer physical and mental demands were enough to give me the confidence to tackle every day challenges at the time and those that were to come. And being part of a team is something I wouldn't trade for anything, even though I wasn't a key player.

So, little Fields, get ready to lace up your skates or strap on your shin guards, wrap up that glove in rubber bands to get it loose, put on that eyeblack or tie a pair of ridiculously expensive shoes that squeak on the hardwood. You're gonna play, little man, because it's good for you.

Who knows, you might even have fun.

Ben Fields is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or befields@herald-dispatch.com.

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