Soccer doesn’t make my heart race, but my dearest friend, a Brit, absolutely loves the sport. She and her son are aficionados. It was fun to spend time with them one evening, when family and friends gathered to celebrate her birthday at a local restaurant. It was obvious that soccer leveled the “playing field” between generations. Sitting next to one another, they continued to banter back and forth about the recent World Cup results. They both rooted for the Dutch, but heartily disagreed about the Argentinians. My friend refused to believe that they were a team deserving of respect. Her son did his best to cajole her into agreeing that they were. Mom was not to be swayed, and that was that.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal’s “Opinion”, John Harkes, ESPN broadcast analyst and member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame and board member of America SCORES, proposes that soccer be a weapon in our country’s fight against childhood obesity. “…it’s imperative that organized sports like soccer are recognized not just as recreational activities but as educational tools to promote physical health, academics and social skills.”
Beyond the obvious, however, Harkes asks us to look past our borders and witness how revolutionary soccer has been in countries riddled by “racial and ethnic conflict, economic hardship and political strife. In the poorest countries, children play makeshift soccer, kicking around cans. “In the process they acquire sportsmanship, leadership and commitment. Whether it is learning to pass the ball when you could as easily shoot a goal, or shaking hands at the end of a contentious match, soccer teaches life skills. Is this not something America needs too?”
America SCORES uses soccer as a vehicle “…to empower students in the nation’s most under-resourced school districts…”, providing 8 to 13 year olds “…10 times more physical exercise than the national average for their age, improve literacy skills, increase school participation, and spark community engagement by encouraging kids to use teamwork learned on the field to support each other off of it.” Harkes challenges us to “Get an America SCORES program into your kid’s school, or better yet, the one down the road that needs it even more.”
I’d like to take the challenge even further. Americans honor their sports idols with monetary compensation beyond their wildest dreams. There’s no denying they’ve dedicated their entire lives toward that end. Some were potentially high school dropouts. Many saw sports as an escape from a life of poverty for themselves and their families. In rushing to exploit their talents, both the athletes and the businessmen ignore the fact that “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” Our superstars can earn millions, but they haven’t learned how to spend their earnings wisely, and with a lot more heart.
I’ve often felt some of these millionaire athletes could support third world countries. But even closer to home, these super-sports-stars could give a “hand-up” to the less fortunate among their peers.
Ballet, as well as other forms of dance, is a sport according to Webster’s definition. “… an often competitive athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess.” Unlike European governments which subsidize dance companies so that their members can earn a living wage, American dancers fend for themselves, as do the companies for whom they work.
Our family has personally experienced my daughter’s growth as a person, in great part owing to her years as an aspiring ballerina. I’ve often said to friends who’ve asked, “We have no regrets supporting our daughter in her quest to dance professionally. Whatever happens, we feel she has already achieved so many life skills: responsibility, discipline, commitment, sacrifice, leadership, teamwork, communicating with management, maintaining her health, handling competition, and being independent. Living frugally, she was already prepared for our current economy.
The media has begun showcasing dance as a major form of entertainment for the masses, as is evident in TV shows like “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Dancing With The Stars,” and “Dance Your Ass Off.” But it’s also evident that it is not paying off big-time for dancers, the way the major sports are doing for their athletes.
Artists of all genre will agree that they do what they’re passionate about for the love of it, not for huge sums of money. Wouldn’t it be awesome if American professional dance groups in need of financial support, were sponsored by millionaire athletes? In doing so, they would undoubtedly bring value and meaning to their materialistic, and perhaps “empty”, lives. Their wealth would go much farther, if they invested in others with talent like theirs.
from my lips to their ears…hugmamma.