Recently my dear friend lost her husband to ALS. He was an amazing man- a true gentleman- with a kind spirit and who left an indelible mark on those who crossed paths with him. He left behind a beautiful wife he adored and three grown adult children.
Growing up all of his kids were heavily involved with activities and sports. From rowing to baseball and basketball, they were a “sports family”.
After he passed, a mom whose son played basketball with my friends son, heard that a few of us were helping plan his service and needed help with all the logistics. She immediately texted the boys from the 2017 high school basketball team, 5 years ago. She asked if anyone was available to come help at the service- with set up, serving food or cleanup. She told them no pressure and no worries if they couldn’t help, she knew some lived far and that they were busy.
The responses came in quickly- yes they would be there to help and yes they would help with every part of the service. Distance nor schedules would prevent them from supporting for their teammate and his family.
The day of the service, on a very hot day, these young men did it all. They set up tables and chairs, carried ice, served champagne during the service so we could toast to a life well lived, cleared plates, and stayed to the end to clean up and break down everything. They worked tirelessly and efficiently and with a smile the whole time.
They were honoring a man who had rooted and cheered for them their whole lives. They were supporting their brother and they continued to be a team. They were completing the circle of love- giving back to those who have given to them.
It’s the side of sports people don’t see. The side that isn’t about points or wins and losses. The side that has nothing to do with athleticism or championships. The side that stays longer than the season and transcends any record books.
It’s the human side. The side that takes strangers and connects them forever. The side that forges lifelong relationships with people that have stood together through the good and the bad. The side that makes teammates into families.
The true lessons of sports often happen off the court, off the field or off the mat. They happen in small moments and when no one is watching. They happen not in triumphs or wins but in sadness and loss. They happen in the moments that are measured by the heart, not the scoreboard.
Sports are so symbolic of life. The best team doesn’t always finish first, good guys don’t always win and life is not always fair. The true lessons of sports show themselves in the hard moments, the uncomfortable moments and the painful moments.
Adversity is part of life. But the connections and relationships formed through sports helps bring light amidst the darkness and offers hope when there is struggle.
Watching these young men work together that day, supporting each other, was beyond beautiful. It was inspiring and it was touching. They helped out not because a coach or their parents told them to, but because it’s what they wanted to do. They did what you do when family needs you. They stepped up and they stepped in for their brother.
Life is like a game – with a start, a middle, and an end. It is a game of chances, challenges, loss, love, and all those emotions that change us. It is not an easy game but in the end if you have teammates that continue to show up for you, you have won more than a medal or a trophy- you have won a lifelong connection to people who will forever have your back.