Reality Check

Growing up without sports

I remember standing out in left field in Williamsport and thinking just how beautiful the ballpark was. The clean cut grass blanketed by the cool blue sky while the wind blew just enough to lift the breeze. And then I thought just how amazing and lucky the kids were when they took the field at such a place.

Each year thousands of people, mostly kids descend to Williamsport for the Little League World Series. It’s hard to imagine that such a grand place was reserved for 12 year olds – something that a lot of kids around the world aren’t blessed with.

There is no better place in the world than America to grow up in if you love sports. From the very first hoop your Dad installs in the driveway to the very first baseball glove you get for your birthday, kids across the country couldn’t be in a better place for it. The country is just perfect for it; from the wide open spaces, the ballparks and driveways to the acres of green that you can spend your days kicking, throwing and catching. Perhaps it’s the way sports is emphasized – the joys of triumph, the heartbreak of defeat and the lessons and memories that forever capture the hearts of both young and old. For whatever reason, it’s there – from the moment one can walk, throughout middle school and high school and all the way to college and the pros – sports is accessible, available and held in high regard.

Unfortunately, some kids, with that same glare in their eyes, the same passion and drive, just aren’t as lucky. While they dream of someday taking on the best, they can’t spend their days kicking, throwing and catching on clean cut grass, in nice driveways or parks. Outside the United States and the rest of the developed world – kids often are left growing up without sports.

Having spent most of my earlier days in Indonesia, I’ve come to see how important sports can be to growing up. Luckily for me, the school I went to emphasized sports greatly and while my genes (thanks Dad, thanks Mom) were never of the sports kind, with enough practice and hard work, sports became a big part of my life. It gave me something to be excited about, something to be passionate about and something to work hard for. A big part of that was how my parents were very supportive of that, unlike a lot of local parents who make their kids do only two things growing up – study and more studying. While there is no substitute for education, sports in my opinion is just as important when it comes to shaping who we are.

Another deterrent for sports being a viable option in such developing countries could be the lack of facilities and motivated participants. While such problems have been greatly improved upon over the years, it is still far from becoming an important part of the social lifestyle. Maybe younger kids see how difficult it is to make a living being a professional athlete in such countries and are put off by it. Maybe they are just more excited about playing the latest video games rather than making that last second buzzer beater. Perhaps, it is a cultural thing; most evident in how Asian people tend to be of smaller stature when compared to their North American counterparts. It’s just not emphasized a lot during a youth’s tenure at school and the facilities that are given tend to be poor.

There are promising signs; more and more kids in Indonesia are becoming active in sports. The influx of American and European culture means that local kids are becoming more aware of different possibilities and options. They see just how incredible those sporting moments can feel like and they know that they too, can be part of the glory, sadness and memories.

While countries like Japan and more recently Korea are far ahead of places like Indonesia, time will only tell if sports will become such a huge part of the culture. Who knows, maybe someday some of the kids in Indonesia can share and experience just how amazing places like Williamsport can be. Hopefully, these kids will be last to have grown up without sports.

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