Sunday, March 27, 2011

Founding Fathers

In almost everything we do, we are guided along the way. Athletes are no exception. No athlete picks up a sport and just runs with it. Sports would essentially be non-existent if it were not for the ones who teach the younger generations. The passion for sports is generally taught to you, usually by a father. Dads all over the world, everyday, are teaching their kids how to play sports. One may think Tiger Woods teed of one day and was a natural golfer, however, it was the enforcement of his father who coached him to the pros. The William's sisters are a similar case, spending countless hours on the tennis court with their father. Even Ken Griffey Jr., who was not only coached by his father, but had the opportunity to play with him. Although the likeliness of a child becoming a professional athlete is extremely unlikely, the relationship between child and father, or child and mother is an important part of sports to all kids. 

In some cases, amateur athletes are given the opportunity to not only be taught by their parent, but coached by them as well. For all my life I have had the benefit of having my dad as my coach. As a child himself, he developed a passion for the game of soccer. It was only natural that he would teach me to love the game as he did. Since I was four, he attended every practice and game, primarily as a coach. Now in high school, I am fortunate enough to have him on the sidelines as the head coach of the high school team. I'm not going lie, it's interesting. He's harder on me than everyone else, and watching tape at home isn't exactly fun. But I wouldn't want it any other way. To hold my hand and to tell me I'm always doing a good job would never get me anywhere on the soccer in life. My friends often ask what's it like having my dad as a coach. It's really simple, on the soccer field he's dad and coach, and at home he's just dad. 

This past fall, my dad received the Northeast Conference Coach of the Year Award. The fact that he is humble about the honor often surprises me; to know that you are the best at what you do in comparison to your opponents and colleagues is something, in my opinion worth sharing from time to time. The fact that he received the award doesn't exactly surprise me; he's my "coach of the year" every year. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Long Road Ahead

Everyone knows that sports are more than just games with bats, balls, and goal posts. For athletes everywhere, sports provides a "private sanctum" a "happy place" if you will, for those that take advantage of them. It also serves as something to strive for. Jeff Allison began his journey in Major League Baseball in 2003 when he was drafted by the Florida Marlins. As an 18-year-old prodigy, Allison was one of the top pitchers in the country, throwing a 95 mile per hour fastball as a senior in high school. Entering a world consumed by nothing but baseball, Allison would peruse a lifelong dream of playing Major League Baseball. However, along with his "fast" ball, came fast living, and drugs. Allison's baseball career seemingly halted when in July of 2004, he overdosed on heroin. It seldom occurs in professional sports for one's career to plummet almost instantly. The talented boy, who was once proclaimed a superstar and propelled for professional sports, has been consumed by a world of drugs and substance. 

Indeed nothing short of "sticky situation", Allison's career in baseball appears to be somewhat a fantasy rather than reality following his overdose. Indeed inactive, and certainly not throwing 95 miles per hour, Allison's career will presumably diminish over time following his drug overdose. However, precisely on December 4, 2006, Jeff Allison would turn away from a life of drugs. Alison has been sober for four years and four months and is currently active in the Marlin's minor league organization but is on the rise once more. Today, Allison was called up from the minor league camp to supply depth in the Marlin's bullpen. 

Living so close to Allison's hometown of Peabody, I would sporadically read the occasional story in he newspaper, whether it was his current involvement in baseball or activity in the Marlin's organization. However, after hearing this story, you can't help but cheer him on and assume he has shed his "tough guy" image. In his successful attempts to stay sober, he claims that his want and desire to live a drug free life was fueled by his strive to play baseball once more. It seems awfully funny to think that a game is what keeps Alison from using drugs. The game of baseball has dug Allison out of a hole, as he puts it "a deep, deep, deep hole."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

J Mac

Recently I entered the Will Macdonough writing contest. Topics included anything sports, I immediately thought of the Jason McElwain story. Here's the paper I submitted

As an athlete, sports enthusiast, and aspiring sports journalist, one might say I’m always looking for a “good story”. Throughout middle school I would graze various newspaper articles, read and occasionally catch a sports documentary on TV. However in the eighth grade I stopped searching. Instead of searching for stories, I began to praise and obsess over the miraculous story of Jason McElwain. Never have I seen such sheer determination and courage at one time. To this day, I will still find myself watching the video on YouTube over and over again. McElwain, Born with autism, has forever changed my opinion of, the way I play, and watch sports, knowing determination is an integral part to any team, player, or coach’s success in any aspect of the sports world.
McElwain, although born with a disability, did not let his disability deter him away from sports but towards them. Having a love for sports and specifically basketball, as a child and teenager, he did only what he felt was natural, play. Overcome by adversity, McElwain never thought he was at all “different”, merely a kid that liked to play basketball. As a sophomore, McElwain did not make the basketball team. However, due to a developed love for the game of basketball and for the Greece Athena High School basketball team, coach Jim Johnson welcomed McElwain as the team’s manager. In his three seasons as team manager, Jason had missed only one game. After being cut from the team as a sophomore, to continue his career as the team’s manager, McElwain possesses a trait not common in any athlete, a selfless attitude. With this selfless attitude, McElwain’s focus is wrapped solely around the success of the team, rather than himself. As an athlete, self-determination is seemingly achieved over time. However, McElwain remarkably is determined to support his team and his school, through his raw love of the game of basketball, all while dismissing the fact that he has a disability.
            As a direct definition from Webster’s Dictionary, courage is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, and pain. If the story of Jason is a familiar one, then you would know that courage plays no factor in Jason’s story, to him at least. In McElwain’s story, any first time viewer will see nothing short of righteous acts of courage exerted in only the three short minutes that Jason played in the final game of the season in his senior year. Coach Johnson had placed McElwain on the roster, but promised no playing time. However with three minutes remaining, Jason was given the opportunity to play. Looking up into the stands, the entire student body was holding cardboard cutout faces of Jason, a scene that seemed only present in a March Madness tournament game. To a fan, spectator, or anyone who knows this story cannot help but be astonished as to what actually happened. After missing his first two shots, McElwain caught fire. Hitting three pointer, after three pointer, after three pointer. McElwain hit six three point shots plus one other two point shot for a total of twenty points. As the buzzer sounded, naturally, the fans rushed the court. Although seemingly nothing short of courageous, McElwain feels otherwise. He sees it as doing what he loves, playing basketball.  The thrill of being carried off the court by his team and classmates appears to be a small incentive for Jason.
            Jason’s story is one that not only touches the hearts of those who hear and watch his remarkable journey, but one that inspires rather than teaches. His attitude and outlook not only on sports but also on life, is one that I try to have in all aspects of my life. As a high school athlete, I find myself becoming more passionate about the sports I play.  As a pre-game ritual, I dedicate my performance to someone who has inspired me or has shown how proud he or she is of me. However, whom ever I chose is included with Jason McElwain. For every race and game I dedicate my performance to Jason. His story has inspired me to find a passion for sports rather than to simply play them.