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Life Lessons

Detroit, Sports, and You

Detroit has been inspiring writers this year.

Back in January, columnist Mitch Albom wrote a moving piece on the city, on its troubles, its values, and its affection for its sports teams.

Currently the city is featured on the cover of Sports illustrated, with the Tigers playing a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins that will help decide who finishes in first place.

Coincidentally, I just happened to get a magazine that re-printed a letter sent by president Franklin D. Roosevelt to then-baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. In it, FDR expressed his belief that baseball should continue, and not shut down, during World War II because it was good for the country’s morale.

All sports take place amid a larger societal picture. The games go on at the same as wars, depressions, upheavals.

And it’s the same way with your athletes. When your players walk onto the field or into the gym, they do so against the backdrop of their life. They bring tomorrow’s test, their peer relationships, their home life, everything.

You want them to focus on practice, and put the rest aside, as a surgeon should, as an airline pilot should, but it’s not easy. And so you do the next-best thing: You try to make sure their sports experience is a good one. You hope to emphasize values that they can use in all areas of their life.

Sports alone cannot save Detroit. At best it is a rallying point, a distraction from troubles.

But for your players sports can mean even more. It can be a way for them to learn something positive about themselves, to discover capabilities they never knew they had.

That discovery depends a lot on what you teach and how you teach it.


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