Food for Thought

by Ryan Krzykowski

In these wild times, there’s certainly no shortage of topics for the blog this week.  We could talk about the return of pro sports amid pandemic uncertainty, the Patrick Mahomes contract, or the brilliance of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” (and yes, it is every bit as good as advertised).  But the way news can fly at us, hover for 24-48 hours and then seemingly melt away, means that at times we gloss over opportunities to engage and give ideas the kind of thought and attention they deserve.  One example of this is a recent Instagram post by big league baseball player Ian Desmond

Although I’ve got ten years on him, I can personally relate to much of what Desmond had to say about baseball.  He and I grew up a little more than an hour’s drive apart, and he writes about visiting the Little League fields where he learned the game.  We read about how the facility has been neglected and is pretty run down.  He goes on to write about how in the U.S., baseball, in general, has evolved from a game for all into a game for those whose families can afford it.  Desmond’s poignant commentary on the state of the game struck a chord with me.  It made me wonder what it might look like to provide widespread opportunities for American kids who have been left behind by a sport that once helped lead the way in regard to equality and social justice, at least within the realm of athletics.

In addition to those thoughts, Desmond delivers personal insights on race, and his experience as a biracial child and adult.  He details some of the mind-boggling racism he encountered from high school teammates.  He talks about his decision to skip this year’s MLB season due to health concerns with his young family.  We read some of his thoughts on inequality in sports and education and wonder what can be done about it.

He shares this profound statement about the role baseball and those run down fields in Sarasota meant to him:

“I had the most heartbreak and the most fulfillment right there on those fields — in the same exact place.  I felt the hurt of racism, the loneliness of abandonment, and so many other emotions.  But I also felt the triumph of success.  The love of others.  The support of a group of men pulling for each other and picking one another up as a team. 

I got to experience that because it was a place where baseball could be played by any kid who wanted.  It was there, it was affordable, and it was staffed by people who cared.”  

One of those people who cared was Desmond’s youth coach, John Howard, about whom Desmond writes:

“I thought about the moment when my coach, John Howard, seeing I was upset about an out or something, wrapped me in an embrace so strong I can still remember how his arms felt around me.  How it felt to be hugged like that; embraced by a man who cared about the way I was feeling.”

I strongly encourage you to read Desmond’s post/essay in its entirety.  You might love every word.  You might disagree or be uncomfortable with some of his ideas.  But there’s no denying that Ian Desmond has given us some meaningful food for thought — and we will best be able to coach effectively and see sports used as a tool of positive transformation when we reflect upon where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re headed.

Let’s Coach With Purpose…