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Since it’s an Olympic year, many really don’t know what it takes to become an Olympic athlete. The physical and mental progression from one level to the next as well as the financial expenditure to complete a young prospect’s journey through the ranks until he is recognized as an elite caliber athlete is a pursuit of all a life. For too many people, the journey ends far too soon. For others, the financial pressure is too great to overcome. And then there are still others whose physical attributes prevent them from reaching the pinnacle of sporting success.
For elite and professional athletes, achieving this level of excellence in your given sport comes at a price. When we look at the price one pays for the cost of athletics today, we come away with a staggering realization of the amount of money actually involved. When we compare the costs involved with the cost of just 50 years ago, it is just another indication of how our society has become so consumed by wealth. Just look at what the New York Yankees did by signing a baseball player to an unprecedented multi-million dollar contract last year. To top it off, if that athlete gets injured and can’t play, they’re still obligated to pay their full salary. It was unheard of 60 years ago.
We should all remember that 60 years ago many young people played little league baseball and Pop Warner football. Myself, I remember that every Saturday I played baseball, rain or shine. I had a leather four-finger baseball glove my dad bought and I think that was the only expense we paid for me to play ball. When I started high school, my parents didn’t have to pay extra for me to participate in interscholastic sports, whether it was cross country, swimming, or track and field. Our school uniforms, warm-ups, and transportation to and from away competitions were all covered by the school district. Just think that 60 years ago there were no real financial handicaps that kept our parents from getting one into interscholastic sports. Today, this is not the case. With school budget cuts front and center in school districts across the country, many athletic programs have been eliminated or attendance fees are alarmingly high. When the costs of participating in interscholastic sports rise, many hopefuls are denied the opportunity to do so simply because many parents do not have the additional financial means to get their children involved in extracurricular activities.
Going back to my college years, I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in intercollegiate sports thanks to a partial sports scholarship which paid for the expenses incurred. We should remember that tuition fees in public school universities were relatively low compared to today. Overall, the cost to pursue a sports career was far cheaper than it is today. So much so that today’s athletes are spending more on high-tech gadgets to record and even enhance their performance. I fondly remember that all we had during the cross country and track season was stopwatches.
When money is involved today, a gradual disintegration of leadership has occurred. It is during my long athletic and professional career that I have witnessed a decline in personal and professional behavior in many professional athletes. The professionalism and camaraderie of the 1950s, 60s and early 1970s gave way to an ideology of self-absorption, self-service, self-gratification and self-profit where the individual is entirely consumed with monetary compensation and altruism without the slightest regard for his teammates. , competitors and fans. Lost is the sense of camaraderie that was once a primary motivation for being an athlete.
What has changed from playing for the “love of the game” to now where players in all professional sports and a majority of college sports have also embraced the selfish philosophy. When and where they play for the excessive amounts of money offered to them, the professionalism, respect for each player, the fans and the general public has diminished so much that players now expect adoration, attention and publicity to be given to them. It’s not because of their abilities, their respect for players, coaches and fans, but because of the amount of money they receive. Whether or not they produce the professionalism that must be displayed when individuals achieve this level of athleticism is no longer often displayed.
I remember when I first participated in a sporting event. The excitement, zest for life and respect I had for myself, my coaches and fellow competitors made me realize that just being able to compete was an incredible experience. Whether I win or be the last was not the main objective. My coaches realized that winning wasn’t the most important thing, but being able to strive for your best is the essence of competition. Sure, everyone likes to win, but even if you lost or finished second as long as you tried, you succeeded, and that’s winning.
Today, huge numbers of high school and college athletes are lured by the prospect of lucrative professional athletic contracts. Many have succumbed to the temptation to give up a college career or quit before graduation and opt for the pro contract only to find that once their career is over or an injury prevents them from competing , they find themselves with very few qualifications to embark on a career. outside of sports.
Most of these people are not mentally, emotionally and educationally capable of understanding the scope of responsibilities involved in professional sports contracts. What has happened today in professional sports is that they have really encouraged a type of behavior that is most unprofessional in the athletes themselves. I’m not saying that all professional sports athletes have fallen into this type of behavior, but the media has continually exploited certain people to such an extent that the general public further encourages students and professional athletes to engage in the most unprofessional behavior.
“For the love of the game or the sport! A time not so long ago. The time when players and athletes actually played and competed for the enjoyment of the sport itself and not for the amount of money they were or will be paid. In the world of professional sports winning is the ultimate goal. The key here is to recruit the caliber of players who, when they actually play or compete, a high degree of excellence is displayed. Always do their best will produce the winning effect that is so important in today’s professional sport.
Today’s budding young athletes must learn restraint and resist the temptation to forego an education in pursuit of that lucrative contract that seems like a safe bet when in reality it is an attempt to short-sighted and misguided to interrupt an individual’s life process. What really matters is that students and student-athletes, when participating in their respective sports, are held accountable for their behavior on and off the field of play. They must show a level of self-esteem and show courtesy, respect and true camaraderie to everyone.
Is it any wonder that so many schools continually underfund physical education and so many other enriching cultural activities in the elementary and secondary school systems that today’s students and young aspiring athletes find so difficult to have the same availability of programs that were considered an eternal part of an educational experience just 60 years ago? Until schools across the country realize the importance of athletics and the arts in their educational experience and find ways to prevent families and individuals with disabilities from participating simply because these programs are too expensive, many promising athletes, musicians or performing artists will be denied opportunities. to reach their full potential. The bottom line is one of the reasons our society has strayed from the moral values of a not-so-distant era. A very sad comment for today.
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