Written by Marc Hardy, AmeriCorps member at A.J. Dorsa Elementary School

Sports have always been a coveted pastime of America. Sports of all levels are taken very seriously and the sports industry in North America brings in billions of dollars of revenue each year. Four of the top five wealthiest sports leagues in the world are right here in the states, with the National Football League leading the way at $13 billion of revenue generated in 2015 alone. Of course with such large professional organizations, the amaeture athletics surely aren’t too far behind. The NCAA’s March Madness is one of the largest sporting events in the country. 64 teams battle to get to the Final Four in hopes of winning a National Championship. As the NCAA’s largest revenue profiting event, millions of eyes are watching, including the eyes of our children.

If you walk onto one of the bustling school campuses here in East San Jose, California, you will quickly grow to realize the influence that sports have on today’s youth. With a yard full of basketball courts and soccer fields, it only reassures to me that sports are on the forefront of a lot of their minds, especially the young boys. March Madness does exactly that by bringing amateur sports to the national headlines for an entire month. Nowhere in the world does amateur athletics garner nearly as much attention as it does here. It makes you wonder the effects it has on future generations. A lot of people will look at it and think that it takes their focus away from their academics, which can be considered valid in some cases. Some may argue that it teaches over competition not only on the playgrounds but other areas of life.

Though there are negative aspects to sports, the countless life lessons that it teaches a young child cannot go unnoticed. Through sports, kids have the opportunity to learn respect, determination, perseverance and teamwork. As a 7 year old on my very first basketball team, I was faced with challenges with a teammate. Though miniscule in the moment, I learned the importance of being a great teammate on and off the court. One of my teammates’ older brother was murdered in the middle of our season. He had yet to see his younger brother play basketball. As a innocent seven year old I could see and feel the pain that my teammate was going through. To show our support, as a team we all attended his older brother’s funeral to show him that we cared. That moment meant so much to him and his family thanked us endlessly. The unfortunate reality is a lot of children, especially on the east side of San Jose, do not receive the mental and emotional support that they deserve. If students like ours have the support system that can be provided by a sports team, they feel more confident that they can overcome anything. If our students get the opportunity to battle alongside their teammates, they build that foundation of confidence to stand on for the rest of their lives.

As an essential part of the Dorsa Elementary School community, I understand how to shape a child’s athletic energy to help build them as a human being. Providing with the tools to organize active play is a part of education that is wrongly overlooked  by decision makers at times and the children are missing out on those opportunities. It’s up to teachers and administrators to, even if they do not have a sports background, recognize the advantages of teaching children lessons while they partake in something they enjoy. When the bright lights from March Madness are turned off, when the season is over, the lessons of sportsmanship and hard work will last forever and that is a greater prize than any trophy.

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