Unfortunately it is our new normal that extreme violence is widely publicized and readily available to all of us on a daily basis. In light of the recent events in Paris and other countries around the world last week, it made me think about a question – When do biases form? Given my personal experience of growing up in the 1970’s in Orange County, California when Asians were a minority (and not a majority, as it is today), I have analyzed and over-analyzed this issue for at least the last 20 years. My entire life, I was keenly aware that I was different. And now, as a Korean-American mother to my Korean-Irish children (who look 100% Korean by the way), I continue to reflect on my biases and how they influence my children.
There are so many things that I love about team sports and basketball in specific, given it is the sport of choice in our house. When our boys are on the court, all they see are other boys who love to play basketball. They don’t see color, socio-economic status, gender, physical differences or anything else … they see athletes who are playing a sport they love … TOGETHER! These boys see and appreciate their fellow teammates for who they are and truly value them as individuals. They play, eat, travel and learn from one another. If our children innately understand the true definition of diversity and valuing differences, at this young age, when and why do they change? How do we continue to reinforce the natural desire of our children to accept and appreciate one another, regardless of their backgrounds?
Here’s what I believe basketball, and other team sports can teach us about valuing differences:
- Inclusiveness: Everyone is welcome to play ball. Once you are on the team everyone becomes a part of the family and they rely on you and you rely on them.
- Connection: Everyone is there to just play ball. There is a natural connection that brings the boys together, their love of the game and through this connection, they learn about one another and appreciate one another as individuals.
- Investment: You are invested in one another. I have learned that the greatest gift anyone can ever give you (or you can give them for that matter) is their time. That’s what we all give to our sport and through the time you spend together you learn about one another and each person’s story.
- Acceptance: They all wear one jersey. When they put on the team jersey, they are one. They see their teammates, accept them for their strengths, their weaknesses, and their differences.
So the question is, if children naturally demonstrate these behaviors, what do we need to do differently as adults to reinforce and encourage this behavior rather than detract from it? How can we create an environment where the behaviors we naturally see from children on the court are consistently demonstrated and reinforced off the court? Real change begins with each of us, in each of our homes, one day at a time. And I know there is a lesson to be learned from all of the violence in the world today because we, collectively can do better. Let’s learn from our children who see their teammates as individuals and come out to just play ball … TOGETHER!