Sport is a Gift

Author: James Schmutz, ASEP Executive Director


Sport is a gift, a gift that provides us all with opportunities that we might otherwise never experience. Parents who register their children for youth sport give their child an opportunity to be active, develop skills, and socialize with friends in a fun environment. A coach who provides encouragement in the face of failure and makes sport fun gives athletes an opportunity to persevere and develop to their full potential. Coaches provide the gift of continued growth through sport. Competitions are a simple gift which help measure progress. High school athletes playing for their community are a gift, still cherished by many, where the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back.

As you reflect on sport as a gift, think beyond the extrinsic emotional gift attached to winning. You are providing the gift of helping athletes develop a range of skills like discipline, persistence, and humility through sport. Take pride in knowing that athletes under your leadership have the opportunity to grow in positive ways that will affect them forever and in a way that makes whole communities better. You are providing the consummate gift that you may never witness. You are helping to develop the future, a future of hope that will be led by individuals who have learned so much through sport under your direction.

In turn think about what your athletes give you. They give you their best in practice and during competition. They give you satisfaction when your relentless pursuit of helping them acquire a skill finally pays off when they execute it successfully. They give you joy when they play without fear and have fun executing a game plan the way they practiced. Athletes make coaches proud when they demonstrate maturity as a team by communicating with one another during a game rather than looking to the sideline for direction. The ultimate gift may also be the simplest, when away from practice and the field of play athletes make choices and behave in a way that demonstrates respect for the coach, the program, and the community.

We are often consumed by negative stories in sport that result from athletes behaving badly. Given the time of year, I think it is valuable to focus on the positive. During this holiday season reflect on your proudest moments. Think about the greatest gift that you have experienced through sport during your lifetime. No doubt you have taught and counseled athletes in way that they will remember forever. Equally compelling, athletes have taught you many lessons that will last your lifetime.

It's hard to imagine the world without sport...a world of empty playing fields and quiet gyms. But if not for you and countless others who dedicate themselves to young people, that is exactly what we would have. So in the spirit of the season, I thank all of you for delivering the gift of sport. Thank you for making lives better and communities stronger through sport.

Happy holidays,

Jim Schmutz
ASEP Executive Director