All I ever wanted to be when I was a little kid was a high school athlete.
I didn’t care if I ever made it to the college or pros, I just wanted the opportunity to one day wear the red and gray of the Troy Trojans. It didn’t even matter what sport, truthfully. I simply wanted to be an athlete in a town that puts its sports stars on a pedestal. I wanted to wear a Troy varsity jacket, which may as well have been a superhero’s outfit to me when I was in elementary school.
When I was younger, I figured it was pretty much my genetic birthright and my high school destiny. My dad had been a four-sport athlete and a state champion sprinter in high school. My mother, who went to high school in the 1950s, didn’t have the same opportunities girls are afforded to play sports today, but I always knew she was a fantastic athlete in her own right.
My two older brothers and older sister all played multiple sports at Troy, combining for more than 20 varsity letters between the three of them. They were stellar Trojan athletes; I figured when my time came, I would just follow the family tradition.
Man, genetics can be cruel.
I was never blessed with the same physical attributes as the rest of my family. While they were all about winning “Punt, Pass and Kick” and “Shoot, Pass and Dribble” I was more suited for “Bumble, Fumble and Stumble.” I tried a variety of sports and, to be honest, stunk at every single one of them. I remember someone once telling me in elementary school that I “threw like a girl.” When they said that, I envisioned my sister Julie playing softball and thinking, “God, I wish.”
What I may have lacked in athletic ability, however, I more than made up for in self-awareness. I knew I was never going to be a varsity athlete, even at the high school level. I’m pretty sure my parents were well aware of that, too — the grimace on my old man’s face when I tried to play Little League baseball pretty much confirmed it — and also accepted that I wasn’t cut out for high school sports.
I guess maybe that’s why they never sued anyone to try to get me a spot on a high school sports team.
Earlier this week, a mother of a St. Louis-area teenager did just that, filing a federal lawsuit to get her son on a spot on the Ladue High School junior varsity soccer team after he was cut following team tryouts. Granted, the rules regarding the process by which teams are selected seem a bit unfair — upperclassmen aren’t allowed to play junior varsity sports in an effort to make more sports for freshmen and sophomores — but I’m not exactly sure they are “federal lawsuit unfair.”
As it turns out, U.S. District Court Judge John Ross denied the parent’s request — but really, is this what we’ve come to?
In general, I’m all for parents supporting their children, but at what point does that support start to hinder a child’s growth and development? Had the mother been successful in the lawsuit and her son was afforded a place on the team, would it really have helped him in the long run? Would his teammates who went through the tryout process and made the team the traditional way have been accepting of him? Would the coaches have been able to treat him fairly, knowing it took a court order to get him on the team? And what would the child have learned from this? If things don’t go your way, sue someone?
When my athletic career came to an end, I didn’t ask my parents to sue anyone. My love of sports didn’t change, either. I continued to attend all of my brothers’ and sister’s athletic events. When I got to high school myself, I rarely missed a game or match, sitting in the stands and taking it all in from afar.
And somewhere along the way, I figured out I could combine my love of the written word with my love of sports. And since I began my career writing sports for my high school newspaper, it’s been a career that has taken me to incredible places, allowed me to meet fascinating people and cover thrilling sporting events.
Had my parents sued my way onto a high school team, I don’t know what I would have ever discovered a job that has become my passion.
Not everyone is cut out to be an athlete. There’s nothing wrong with that. There are dozens of other ways to remain involved in athletics without stepping foot on the playing field … or into a courtroom.
Troy’s very own David Fong appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong