Growing up, I didn’t participate in team sports. I didn’t attend sporting events, or watch them on TV. My primary interest was in computers and academic pursuits. I was a bit of a nerd.

It wasn’t until my middle-age adulthood that I finally understood the importance of sports. One day in March 2014, I was scrolling through the list of suggested videos on YouTube. There were the usual videos about building robots and deep space telescopes.

One video caught my attention. It was an ad from Dick’s Sporting Goods, but they weren’t selling anything. The video was part of their “Sports Matter” series of public service announcements about the importance of sports. [See Playlist]

I watched that video, and the next, and began binge watching the entire series of ads in the “Sports Matter” campaign. I’ll include some of those below.

You may already be familiar with the message and lesson conveyed by the videos. They explain in a very personal way, how important sports participation can be for young people.

Team sports are one way young people build valuable relationship skills they can benefit from for a lifetime. Participating in sports may be the only confidence-building experience some young people have if their home life diminishes their self esteem and erodes their confidence.

Positive Impact of TEAM Sports

The stories conveyed in the Dick’s videos are very emotional and compelling, and equally gripping are the statistics shared in the campaign overview video:

  • “Student athletes score higher in social skills like resolving conflict, appreciating diversity, and moral conduct.”
  • “Student athletes are 4 times more likely to graduate High School.”

Despite these benefits, $1.5 billion was cut from youth sport programs in the 2010 to 2011 school year. It was projected that 27% of U.S. public High Schools would not have sports by the year 2020. [Source Video]

My own Lack of Awareness

A few years ago, I was standing in line at a coffee shop. In an effort to be friendly, I turned to the person behind me in line, and noticing they looked rather sporty, I said, “You look like a coach.” He did have that coach vibe.

The man responded, “I am THE coach.” I had to ask a few more question before I realized he was Kirk Frerentz, the head football coach at the University of Iowa. It was a little embarrassing, but he was friendly despite me not recognizing him.

On one occasion I was at the gym for my daily workout, and met a woman who humbly described herself as a former University of Iowa coach. I later learned she’s a well known award winning women’s coach.

A few days ago, I met a woman while on my morning walk. Being friendly, she introduced herself. In our brief conversation I learned she had coached at my high school — a mile down the road from where we were walking. I learned upon asking that she coached over a span of about two decades. Those few tips should have been sufficient for me to recognizer her. Yet, I was oblivious.

Sensing I should have known of her, I later did a Google search and learned she was the recipient of multiple awards and hall of fame recognitions. She wrote a book, The Miracle Season, that became a full-length feature film staring Helen Hunt depicting her work as a coach. It would be like meeting Maya Angelou, and even after being told she writes poetry, not recognizing who she was. This encounter prompted me to revisit what I can do to support youth sports.

Sports Education

My lack of knowledge about basic sports facts is a hinderance, and it’s not something easily corrected late in life. I wish I had learned in school, and perhaps college, some basic information about sports.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Iowa, General Education Requirements ensured I had some basic awareness of foundational subjects.

A simple semester-long course about sports would have been sufficient to learn the essentials about different sports, history of sports, key figures, and the benefits of team sports. Perhaps one day something like that can be available.

Take Positive Action

Investments in youth sports initiatives will generally provide a measurable benefit and payback to individuals, families, schools, communities, and society. Confident and competent team-focused young people generally grown into successful and giving adults.

What I plan to do in my own life, and encourage others to do, is support team sports. It’s an important part of anyone’s “making the world a better place” portfolio of giving.

Here are some of the charitable organizations and foundations established to give more young people access to the valuable experience of participating in team sports.

  • Every Kid Sports [View]
  • Live Like Line Foundation [View]
  • National Council of Youth Sports [View]
  • National Youth Sports Strategy [View]
  • Sports Matter [View]

Learn More

The videos below provide insights into the positive impact that team sports can have for young people. You may want to have some tissues while watching these.

Anchorage, Alaska Hockey (1 Dec 2015, Revised 2 May 2022)

Jerome High School Softball (29 Mar 2022)

Daniel #19 Pitcher (21 Apr 2014)

Lacross — BD #9 Defense (2 Mar 2014)

Harlem Lacrosse (5 Aug 2015)

Document History

I originally posted on this topic in March 2014. [View] I was recently inspired to offer this refreshed writing on the topic in July 2022. The featured photo used at the top of this page is from about a year ago, on 30 June 2021. It’s the view from a favorite walking trail.