My beloved Saints lost their game last week taking them out of contention for the Super Bowl, but I still get to see the Pro Bowl for my final post-season glimpse of my favorite Saint, Jimmy Graham. I was never big into following football until my daughter Makenzee started playing youth football. When the Saints went to the Superbowl we watched and cheered them along because they were the underdog story, led by Drew Brees their quarterback who had come back from injury and had been overlooked and let go by the San Diego Chargers, himself an underdog story. That year is when my daughter began to play football and ever since then I have been a screaming fanatic not only for her but the Saints as well.
I didn't want her to play but then remembered my own dreams as a young girl who could throw and kick a football better than most boys. I remember my dad telling me "no" when I asked to play football. Her first year playing she was a defensive standout and was a leader on a team of boys, they went undefeated and won their Championship, her second year was mediocre and a let down for her. This, her last year in youth league was a repeat of the first, being one of the team leaders and defensive standouts again and playing a perfect season and Championship win.
It was never easy financially for us to pay the 50 and now 75 dollar fee, and on top of that buy cleats or shoes and in her case sporting bras and compression shorts. It was a pretty penny, but if I had to sacrifice something for her I would, and I would make enchiladas and sell them for her to be able to play her favorite sports. I beam with pride at my girl. I am soo proud of her and often imagine where this ability will take her. These wins are something she will remember forever. Making all those enchiladas was worth it!
What about the kids that never get the opportunity to play a sport? Maybe in school their grades aren't good enough, or financially their parents cannot afford it. Do you know that statistically childrens grades improve if they are involved in an extra curricular activity like sports. As I drive my bus through my little town I see more kids playing ball in the street on the Eastside than the Westside. Thats because their parents can afford to put them in youth football or Little League on the Westside. I wonder how many hidden talents are out there who will get lost to the thug life, or end up pregnant or worse. Sports should be made available to everyone. I do commend my cities John Wells Youth Center for giving kids the opportunity to box or learn dance for free that is a step in the right direction. Their are some great people in my community, friends of mine and friends of theirs that jump at the opportunity to help out a young athlete in need. A friends son needed wrestling shoes and she posted that he would do yard work or whatever he could to earn money for them on Facebook. I had some old wrestling shoes but they were too small. So I made a call to my friend Johnny a frequent buyer of my enchiladas. I had recently seen his brother Danny who saw me in the grocery store and and had told me if my daughter ever need sponsorship to let him know. So a couple of days later my friends son had wrestling shoes. Things like that are so simple to make happen. My daughter and I have talked about creating a foundation to help kids who otherwise may not be able to afford sports, by getting sponsors and even collecting old sports gear to distribute. We hope to start it soon.
So back to Jimmy Graham, when I watched him play this year he caught my eye with his remarkable talent. When I learned his story he became the hero in my house. How do you play only 6 months of college ball as a graduate student to become the a tight end with 99 receptions and a record breaking 1310 receiving yards in your second NFL season? By having someone believe in you and making you believe in yourself. Watch Jimmy Grahams story below...
Those opportunities are all around us. Look at Michael Oher of the Ravens and his story "The Blindside", he is also a big hero in our house, look at Parades All American Dorial Green-Beckham whose story is similar to Ohers. You don't know his name, but you will. He broke a 15 year old national record by having a highschool career recieving record of 6,447 yards. Green-Beckham and his brother like Oher were adopted by a family, after having been in foster care and living sometimes in motels and vans. It touches my heart because my daughters too, had to live in motels, a mission, and we even slept in our van a few times. These are people who are survivors no matter what. Those are quite honestly the people I would want on my team if I was a coach!
So the next time you see a kid playing ball in the street look at their face and remember it, they may be the next NFL or MLB star.
Some Little Leagues offer fee waivers, so that no child misses the opportunity to play check with your local Little League. http://www.littleleague.org/Little_League_Online.htm