Sports, activities all have their place

An article on the Iola High newspaper Web site caught my attention this week. The IHS Messenger2.0 is a digital version of a high school newspaper with all the different departments — news, sports, features and of course, opinion.
“You Say Sports — I Say Useless” will be defended by me to my dying day in that the reporter has the right to state his opinion on any subject. And because it’s on sports, it pulled me into the “column” — but I was disappointed.
It is clear that the writer does not like sports and has no need for them in his life. Fine. I don’t like rap music and really don’t have any need for it in my life but I don’t think those who produce that music don’t work hard at their craft. Do I believe, if it is rap you want to produce that it could be more uplifting in content? Sure.
But to each his or her own.
After reading the article and the signed response from a group of IHS students, I took exception to the fact the article had no substance. The premise of the article did not hold up. There were no facts, examples to show the way the writer came to the conclusion that sports are useless, attention-getting activities.
Knowing your subject is a good start for a writer. At least have a passing knowledge of sports before writing pro or con on them.
High school sports, college sports and professional sports cannot be lumped together any more than all music can be thrown in one category. I was not an athlete in high school or college. I was a nerd of sorts — loved literature, music, art, had leads in the junior and senior plays, played in the band, was in chorus, member of the Kayettes and pep club. But I also loved sports.
So this is not a “jock” talking about sports. I’ve covered high school sports for over 30 years, 25 of those right here in Iola.
Without a doubt, I can say that most of the better athletes at Iola High School have been in the top 10 percent of graduating classes. They were student leaders. They were in the clubs and participated in plays and music groups. They were in forensics.
Then there’s the other end of the spectrum of athletes at the high school or even middle school level that being a part of an athletic team provides a stable force in their lives. I know when I was in high school a classmate, who lived down the road from my family, was helped through school and his family situation by being involved in sports. He was influenced by teammates and coaches to be a better person.
By participating in volleyball, cross country, football, basketball, tennis, golf, track and field during their high school careers confidence came to those students. Former IHS athletes have gone on to be teachers, pharmacists, doctors, factory workers, car mechanics, lawyers. Iola High athletes have attended the top military academies in the nation and athletics helped them get there.
No, sports are not useless, my young writer. There is skill, work and fun involved. I thought your fellow students said it well in their response to your column. You got what any columnist wants — a response and attention — much like those athletes doing “useless things” on courts and fields.

(Check out the Messenger2.0 at usd25.org/messenger/_Messenger2.0/index.html)