Sports have been around for a while. Cavemen probably competed against each other by throwing rocks against trees. “Hey Og, see that squatty little tree way over there? I’ll bet you five clams that I can hit it and you can’t!” But since that was before recorded history, we can only guess about Og, the rocks, the trees, and any clam payout. Nevertheless, competition, inarguably, is in our blood. Go try finding a culture on the planet that doesn’t have sports. I’ll wait.
The Greek Olympic Games are generally accepted to have their origins circa 776 BC, and were rooted in mythology surrounding the Greek pantheon. The earliest recorded Olympic contests were primarily involving military skills such as running, jumping, boxing, wrestling, and javelin throwing.
The name itself, “athletics”, derives from the Greek word “athlos”, meaning “contest in war or sport, especially for a prize.” In warfare the prize was usually survival. Thus it is not surprising that the attributes that lead to success in sports were the same as those leading to success in war.
Indeed, engraved on the granite walls near Michie Stadium, the football stadium at West Point, are the iconic words of Gen. Douglas MacArthur:
“On the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields will bear the fruits of victory.”
It’s those “seeds” that are most compelling to me. Life’s most important lessons forged in the crucible of sport. Or competition of any kind for that matter. I love hearing those stories. They never grow old. Lessons about perseverance, discipline, other-centeredness, working through pain, self sacrifice for the good of a team, competing with class, showing respect for your adversary, both winning and losing gracefully with humility. The list goes on.
Most of us could share such stories, about ourselves or others.
Struggles against overwhelming disadvantages are particularly inspirational for me. Such as the story of Kyle Maynard, a quadruple amputee who won 36 wrestling matches in his senior year in high school and went on to finish 12th in state in his weight class. All against normal-bodied competitors. WOW!
And when a story is about one of your children, and it gives evidence of them having learned one of those critical lessons, it especially makes a parent’s heart beam with a joy of gratefulness.
One of our sons, Geoff, wrestled in high school, and was voted by his coaches as the most outstanding JV wrestler, as a sophomore. As a consequence he was given a spot on varsity for the following year as a junior. He had developed a close friendship with a teammate, Zach, who wrestled the same weight, but was headed into his senior year, and had been passed over for the varsity spot that had been given to Geoff.
As much as he had worked and sacrificed to earn that spot, Geoff felt in his heart that it wasn’t right for his friend Zach to miss out on being able to wrestle varsity. Figuring that he would likely make varsity his own senior year, Geoff gave his spot to Zach. It still brings tears to my eyes seventeen years later.
The epilogue to that story is even more heartwarming….God I love being a dad!!
I know for a fact that the readers and contributors to this wonderful site could easily fill volumes with similar examples. I eagerly await being able to read yours in the comments section!
Fontana, California Top Photo: Kevin Cline
Garrett Sharp-Craig, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article is a current student at the University of Oregon and is from San Francisco, California.
Lou was raised in Eugene. He moved there in 1959, at the age of nine, when his father joined the faculty at the U of O. The first Duck football game that he can remember occurred at Hayward field: a 1963 loss to San Jose State. After serving in the Army from 1968-70, he returned to Eugene, worked in the woods for a few years; and then eventually earned a degree in Mathematics Education from the U of O in 1976. For the past 43 years he has taught secondary mathematics, mostly in southern California. He lives there with Shawn, his wife of 36 years, who is also an Oregon alum. Together they have two sons and a daughter. He retired in June of 2019. When Shawn retires in June of 2021 they will be moving to Pueblo, Colorado.
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