From the Sidelines
By Keith Champion
A coaching friend of mine was the guest speaker at an athletic fundraising golf tournament and told a story about biking with his son. They biked for a while down streets and back roads and came to a shortcut, but it was covered with tall grass and weeds. Sitting on their bikes for a few seconds, they looked at the grass covered lot in front of them. My friends’ young son then said the words that became the topic of his fundraiser challenge, “Dad, why don’t you go before me, cut a path, and then I will come behind you.”
The young boy had no idea he was giving his dad something with which to challenge a room full of influential men. That is what all of us do as adults. We are all cutting a path for those who will come behind us. How challenging that young boy’s words were.
I can remember going to Michigan a few years ago for the funeral of my father. As many wonderful memories of him raced through my mind, I was reminded of this very story. Dad certainly cleared the way so my siblings and I could follow a definite path through life. Because of his work ethic and example, the road that we traveled was always a little bit easier than it had been for him.
That’s the way it is through life. We are usually following a path cut by others, or we are cutting a path for those behind us. We see the same parallel in professional sports.
Jackie Robinson cut the path for African -Americans in major league baseball. He sacrificed greatly so that others could follow. Drazen Petrovic of the Portland Trailblazers and New Jersey Nets was the frontrunner of an influx of European players who have come to the NBA since. Because of him, clubs started looking at the European leagues for players. Masanori Murakami became the first Japanese born player to play in MLB in 1965. His stay was short, but he preceded Hideo Nomo start with the Dodgers by 30 years. Nomo’s immediate success had the scouts out in mass to the Far East and today over 43 Japanese players are leaving their mark on Major League Baseball. The same can be said for Dominican, Cuban, and Venezuelan players, etc. It only takes one to lead the way so that others will follow.
In a lot of cases, it takes just one to cut the path, pave the road, and lead the way. That person could be any of us. It could be the captain of the team, the president of a class, a member of the board, a coach, a local businessman, a shop worker, a teacher, or a parent. In most cases it takes someone who just wants to stand up and be counted. It is someone who is not afraid of failure. It requires someone who will stick with it when the path gets a little rough and bumpy. It takes some courage and maybe even some repeated efforts. It happens frequently in sports and it can also happen in everyday life.
In the end, when the path is cut and people begin following behind, there is a satisfaction knowing that you made a difference in peoples’ lives. I think that’s the way my father must have felt. Thanks for the path, Dad. You left a clear one to follow.
That’s the way I see it From the Sidelines.