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Should You As Parent Encourage Your Child To Play Dangerous Sports?
Should you encourage your child to play dangerous sports in order to become a professional athlete and earn a lot of money? From the song or it depends on the child, the parent, the talent, the motive and the opportunity. The answer is a resounding “no”, if you ask this parent of four. I’ll explain more of my rationale later. For starters, emptor’s caveat: Sports, like other businesses, has exploitative underbelly that few see or want to see. Being proactive is prudent because advice given after an injury is like medicine after death.
There are functional skills that can be acquired by playing various sports: teamwork, perseverance, determination, winning habits and resilience. In addition, playing sports can be beneficial for overall health.
Obesity is a global 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 and Africans in general) who believe that being fat is a glorious thing, a status symbol, proof of good living and wealth. Engaging in lifelong physical activity are worthwhile habits that promote both quantity and quality of life, according to health experts.
However, there is a huge gap between playing sports recreationally and playing them professionally. No sport is without risk but some are more dangerous than others. Admission fees to the club for professional athletes may be too high; honestly, it might not be worth it.
In my 20s, I loved watching boxing. The Sugar Ray and Thomas “Hitman” Hearns II fight comes to mind. Marvin Hagler, Larry Holmes, Michael Spinks, Mike Tyson, second coming George Foreman were my favorites. I watched those fights every chance I got. At a 1987 Pay-View event in Oakland, California, I happened to be seated next to a former boxer. As we walked out of the room after the thrilling fight, he made some statements that stuck in my mind when a viewer mourned the millions earned by the fighters. He said “these fighters will pay dearly for the rest of their lives for the beatings 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 rather prophetic as little was known at the time about the effects of concussions, blows to the head, performance-enhancing drugs, Parkinson’s disease, memory loss and mental disorders. of elocution. Some of the sports we send our children to play today are just as dangerous, let’s not let the hype, money, fame and medical advancements fool us. Remember that the beef came from a cow or as the Igbos say, “Suya ahu si n’ahu nama”!
Considering the huge money and fame of these sports, it was only a matter of time before Nigerian parents and/or our children themselves would start chasing the trappings of these sports. Some may want to reap the obvious benefits without seeing the latent pitfalls. These parents and children should adhere to 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”.
I have to dedicate a paragraph and pay homage to Nigerian if not global sports heroes. Dick Tiger, Christian Okoye, Hakeem Olajuwon and current professional players have shown shining examples on and off the stage. They remain the beacon of all that is great about Nigeria and Nigerians. When was the last time you heard something negative about these heroes? By their actions, they continue to tarnish the image of our homeland even as corrupt politicians and the 419ers are determined to tarnish its global image. Like grateful Nigerians everywhere, I salute these evergreen heroes.
Are these reasons compelling enough to let your child play dangerous sports?
I hope that Nigerian parents, both at home and abroad, do not push their children to play these sports to earn money. Often we are people who tend to do everything to make money at all costs. Some may want to dispel a myth and end up exposing themselves and their children to hidden dangers. According to a sports journalist, “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 expensive. 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 he continued to play without taking his medication, which made him too drowsy to live up to his star caliber.
All sports have inherent risks. As the Italians say, “ogni rosa ha le sue spine” or “each rose has its thorns”. I love biking. Many cyclists injure and even kill themselves while cycling. Just 3 weeks ago here in Austin, TX a bicyclist pushing his disabled bicycle was killed by an inattentive driver within 10 miles of my residence. Did you know that female soccer players suffer the second highest number of concussions, after American soccer players? Go figure this one out.
However, some sports are like smoking: they are dangerous if practiced as prescribed. Some of the injuries are cumulative from an early age (elementary and middle school) and the ill effects are not fully felt until after the play days are over.
The chances of qualifying for the pros are pretty infinitesimal. As a friend who has practiced one of these sports professionally told me, “People only see the very few who have managed to jump over the ridge. But look into the abyss for see the multitude that did not succeed.” The few who make it to the pros end up living painful lives after their injuries start showing up and their insurance benefits are gone. They quickly waste their income due to poor money management skills. Just as too many Nigerians refuse to plan for their retirement, these athletes believe they will always have money. Those who help you waste your resources won’t be there for you when you need them. Awakening, if it can only bury a person after death, it will not sustain the living.
I do not advise you or your children to avoid amateur or professional sports. I don’t single out one particular sport either. 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 sports. If after all this you still think sport is for your child and they have the means to become the winner in a million, go for it. I wish good luck to your family. Please beware that anything that glitters may be brass, not gold.
Ask yourself these questions:
How come very few descendants of professional players follow in their parents’ footsteps? Did the genes that propelled their parents to stardom suddenly “miss the road”?
Why don’t team owners, coaches, team doctors use their enormous influence to get their kids to play in these obviously lucrative sports? Other companies, including preachers, train their children in the family business, why not as dangerous sportsmen? Is it because they are the truth or, to paraphrase Ben Franklin, society writes injuries in dust and benefits in stone?
Is sport the only way to win college scholarships? Academic scholarships are better than most sports scholarships. The first graduates are more numerous than the second. Reading will not give you the aforementioned wounds.
If you don’t know of any former professional players in the sport that your child might be interested in, search Google or Facebook to find one to talk to. They are relatively easy to find and you will find them ready to help you. Listen with an open mind to what they tell you; don’t take their comments as bitter comments from former players. That’s what I did years ago before my kids were old enough to play popular American sports. Proactively, I started to discourage my sons from playing football. I was shocked when my middle schooler told me he had been asked to try out for his school team.
My wife and our children were initially jubilant when they heard the news. I went into high gear to dissuade him from playing football. When he refused to back down, I blessed him but told him I wasn’t going to any of the games. They said he was good at it. He convinced his mother to go to one of the games. I have to inject here that she is in the medical field. After watching the game live and hearing the sounds of war… I mean the beatings on the pitch that day, she came home to join me in trying to talk our son out of the sport. The sounds of the tubes were unlike anything she heard at football games on television. My response was that if she thought college players hit hard, she can imagine how high school and college players hit hard, not to mention professional players. I couldn’t stand watching my kid play football, I just couldn’t. Call me chicken!
After this first year of football, our son announced to our great joy that he was giving up the sport. I asked why, he said none of his team members were in his advanced placement classes, in fact most of them weren’t doing well in school, partly due to missed classes due to injuries and/or sports distractions. This is the case in Africa and elsewhere. Some excel in sports and studies.
Thank goodness my son was not injured and his grades remain high. He talked about the serious injuries suffered by other footballers, how they were encouraged to eat and lift more weight to get bigger, stronger, kick harder and run faster. He spoke about the use of sub-par equipment and the push to play for college scholarships and professional prospects. Academics were not a priority, training and winning games were! Finally, he said he discovered that we wanted what was best for him, now and for the long term. He realized that we did it with and for love. And we can live with that!
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