"Athletes vs Mathletes"

It’s common in today’s society to see a young woman like myself raising a little boy on her own. Unlike a single woman parenting a young girl the odds are stacked against us. For the past six years I’ve been told that a woman can’t possibly raise a boy into a man, and for the past six years that comment has pissed me off. I’ll admit there are aspects of raising a little boy that requires the attention of a male, but if I can teach him how to pee standing up then I can teach him anything. During one of many conversations with a close friend the topic of sports and young black men came up. I’ll admit due to the fact that my little one is smaller than most children his age I am hesitant to put him in any contact sport such as football, and because of that I constantly hear, “You’re sheltering him too much, you gotta let that boy be a boy.” Another thing I constantly hear is that if I don’t allow him to get out and participate in team sports that he could end up falling into the wrong crowd or turning to the streets. I am a strong believer in the fact that children (both boys and girls) need to be involved in an extracurricular activity of some sort that puts a strong emphasis on team building in an effort to help them learn to be a functional member of society. After talking to my friend who has played sports all his life and has had no run ins with the law or the streets I decided to research the impact of sports on the lives of African-American male youth. After a lot of reading and Googling I found several articles that did in fact link the lack of participation in sports to young men falling into the wrong crowds and ultimately ending up in jail or dead. Most of these “statistics” are based on young black men growing up in single mother households. However, I can not say that I fully agree with the points made, mainly due in part to the fact that in life there are choices, some are right and others are as a wrong as two left shoes. There are more to making the wrong decisions in life than whether or not you took part in sports growing up. On the other hand I am a strong believer that “An idle mind is the devil’s playground” and if a child is not kept busy he/she will find something to get themselves into to get busy. This necessarily doesn’t mean that the only way a single mother raising her son can keep him from running the streets or robbing people is to make him play football or basketball. To better make my case against sports being the only measure to keep kids out of jail I identified several success stories of African-American men who were raised by just a mother or grandmother that do not include him ever having to dribble a ball or score a touchdown to make six figures.Don’t get me wrong I am not saying that allowing young boys (specifically those of color) to play an organized sport is a bad thing, for some this is what they aspire to do and it proves to be a gift. One thing I have noticed with my generation of parents is that we are so busy forcing our little boys to play sports that we stop putting an emphasis on education. It doesn’t matter that “Man-Man” is 18 and can’t read at middle school level as long as he can catch the ball and run it. This is what makes our young men a stereotype. It is already thought to be true by other races that the only thing black kids have to offer is either a profound gift of music or stellar athletics. It is thoughts and ideas such as this that keep our children believing there is nothing more for them outside of the NBA or NFL. As parents we need to stop placing such a high importance on being the next LeBron and start grooming the next Bill Gates, there needs to be an important message starting at home that while its ok to be talented on the field but its more important to excel in the classroom. We as not only African-Americans but as parents have to get out of the mindset that there is nothing better out there for our children to strive towards, that they can’t go to college unless it’s on an athletic scholarship. I will not force anything on my son as I see a lot of parents do, however I am going to push education as being the driving force to his success in not only school but life, there is nothing wrong with instead of him wanting a bike for Christmas, he asked for a telescope to be able to study the stars and the moon. It is not the basketball or football coach that got my son awarded the Star Scientist award at Kindergarten graduation it was the message he received at home that it was ok to be smart and want to learn. Don’t get it confused, I am no fool, so I will not ignore the fact that my six-year old has one hell of a pitching arm and needs to be on someone’s little league team, but unfortunately for Pujols Jr, school work comes first.

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