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Should You As Parent Encourage Your Child To Play Dangerous Sports?
Should you encourage your child to play dangerous sports with the goal of becoming a professional athlete and earning loads of money? de la chanson or it depends on the child, parent, talent, intention and opportunity. If you ask the parents of these four, the answer is “no”. I will explain my rationale further later. For starters, caveat emptor: sports, like other professions, are underbelly exploitative, few see or want to see. Post-injury advice is like post-mortem medicine so it is prudent to be proactive.
By playing various sports one can acquire functional skills: teamwork, perseverance, determination, winning and flexible habits. Also, playing sports can be beneficial for one’s 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 think that being fat is something glorious, a status symbol, a proof of good living and wealth. Engaging in physical activity throughout life is a healthy habit that health experts believe promotes both quantity and quality of life.
However, there is a big difference between playing a game recreationally and playing it professionally. No sport is risk free but some sports are more dangerous than others. The cost of admission to professional players’ clubs can be very high; Frankly, it’s probably not worth it.
In my 20s I loved watching boxing. The battle between Sugar Ray and Thomas “Hitman” Hearns II comes to mind. The second coming of Marvin Hagler, Larry Holmes, Michael Spinks, Mike Tyson, George Foreman was my favorite. I watched those fights every chance I got. At a pay-view event in Oakland, California in 1987, I sat next to a former boxer. As we walked out of the arena after a thrilling fight, a spectator made a statement that struck a chord with me, begging for the millions the fighters had earned. “These fighters will pay dearly for the rest of their lives for the blows they took today,” he said. He added, “All the millions of pain and suffering they create today are not enough to heal a lifetime.”
In retrospect, his speech was rather prophetic because at the time little was known about concussions, head blows, performance-enhancing drugs, Parkinson’s disease, memory loss, and slurred speech problems. Some of the games we send our children to play today are just as dangerous, don’t let hype, money, fame and medical advances fool us. Remember that beef comes from a cow or as the Igbos say, “suya ahu si naahu nama”!
Seeing the huge money and publicity in these sports, it was high time that Nigerian parents and/or our children started pursuing the trap of these sports themselves. Some may want to reap the obvious benefits without seeing the hidden downsides. These parents and children should heed this quote from Einstein: “Learn the rules of the game [first]. And then we should play it better [on and off the court] than anyone else.”
I must dedicate a paragraph and pay tribute to Nigerian and world athletic heroes in action. Dick Tiger, Christian Okoye, Hakeem Olajuwon and current professional athletes have set shining examples on and off the stage. They symbolize all that is great about Nigeria and Nigerians. When was the last time you heard anything negative about these heroes? Even as corrupt politicians and 419 people tarnish its global image, they are tarnishing the image of our motherland by their actions. Like grateful Nigerians everywhere, I salute these evergreen heroes.
Are these reasons compelling enough to allow your child to play dangerous sports?
I hope Nigerian parents at home and especially abroad do not push their children to earn money in these sports. Often, we are all people with an all-consuming tendency to make money. Some may want to dispel a myth and expose themselves and their children to hidden dangers. According to a sports writer, “People are skeptical of Nigerian sportsmen; they are soft, not tough enough and too educated”. That is a loaded statement! Trying to “prove a negative” can cost one dearly. You may remember Loyola Marymount basketball star Eric “Hank” Gathers who died on the court during a televised game in 1990. The youngster was known to have a heart condition but continued to play without taking medication that prevented him from performing up to his star caliber.
All sports have inherent risks. As the Italian says, “Ogni rosa ha le seu spine” or “Every rose has a thorn”. I like to ride a bicycle. Many cyclists are injured and even die while cycling. Just 3 weeks ago here in Austin, Texas, less than 10 miles from where I live, a bicyclist was killed when a reckless driver hit his disabled bike. Did you know that girls soccer players are second only to American football players? Go figure it out.
However, some games are like cigarettes: they are dangerous if played as prescribed. Some injuries are cumulative from a very early age (elementary and middle school) and the effects are not fully felt until after one’s playing days are over.
The possibilities for pros to make it are pretty much limitless. A friend who plays one of these sports professionally tells me, “People see very few people who successfully jump over the cliff. But look into the abyss of people who don’t.” Some people who reach out to the pros live a painful life after their injuries manifest and when they don’t have insurance benefits. They quickly waste their earnings due to poor financial management skills. Just as many Nigerians refuse to plan for retirement, these players think they will always be in the money. Those who help you waste your resources may not be there for you when you need them. Wake-keeping, if it can only bury one after it dies, it will not survive.
I am not suggesting that you or your children should avoid recreational or professional sports. I don’t choose any one sport. As I said, every rose has its thorns; No sport is risk free. I recommend that you do your own research before bringing your family to any sport. Still if you think this game is for your child and he or she has the potential to become a one-in-a-million winner, then go for it. I wish your family all the best. Please be aware that all glitter may be brass, not gold.
Ask yourself these questions:
How do very few children of pro players follow in their parents’ footsteps? Have the genes that propelled parents to stardom suddenly ‘missed the road’?
Why don’t team owners, coaches, team doctors, use their enormous power to get their kids to play these exciting sports? Other professions including preachers train their children in family activities, why not as dangerous athletes? Because it’s true, or to paraphrase Ben Franklin, society writes wounds in dust and benefits in marble?
Is sports the only way to get a university scholarship? Academic scholarships are better than most sports scholarships. The former graduates more students than the latter. Reading will not cause you the above mentioned injuries.
If you don’t know any former professional athletes that your child might be interested in, search Google or Facebook to talk to them. They are relatively easy to find and will be more than willing to help you. Feel free to listen to what they tell you; Don’t take their feedback as bitter comments from former players. This is what I did before my kids were old enough to play the popular American sport. As a proactive step, I started discouraging my children from playing football. I was shocked when my middle school student told me he was asked to try out for his school team.
My wife and our children were happy at first to hear the news. I went into high gear to talk him out of playing football. When he refused to back down, I blessed him but told him I would not go to any games. They said he was good at it. He convinced his mother to go to a game. I should inject here that she is in the medical field. After watching the game live and hearing the sounds of battle… meaning the beatings on the field that day, she returned home to join me in discouraging our son from playing the game. She couldn’t hear the hits from football games on TV. My response was that if she thinks middle school players hit hard, she can imagine how hard high school and college players hit, not to mention professional players. I can’t, can’t stand watching my son play football. Call me chicken!
After that first year of football, our son happily announced to us that he was quitting the game. When I asked why, he said none of his team members were in his Advanced Placement class, in fact, most of them weren’t doing well in school, partly because of injuries and/or missed classes due to sports distractions. This is the case in Africa and elsewhere. Some excel in both sports and academics.
Thank God my son was not hurt and his grades are high. He talked about the serious injuries other footballers suffered, how he encouraged them to eat and lift more weight to get bigger, stronger and hit harder and run faster. He talked about using sub-par equipment and playing for college scholarships and potential prospects. Education was not a priority, practice and winning games were! In the end, he said he realized we wanted what was best for him now and in the long run. He understood that we did it with love and for love. And we can live with that!
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