Why You Must Introduce Your Young Athletes to Jackie Robinson
Earlier this week Major League Baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson Day. Each year on April 15th Jackie Robinson’s integration of baseball is celebrated. Throughout the Major Leagues every single player on every team wears Jackie’s number 42. In addition his number 42 has been retired league wide, which is one of the highest honors any athlete in any sport has received. And it is well deserved. However, not many of today’s athletes know the full impact Jackie Robinson had on, and off, the baseball field. As parents and coaches it is our responsibility to introduce them to the great player, person, and legend Jackie Robinson.
Jackie…more than a name
Growing up playing little league baseball, I was familiar with Jackie Robinson, although I didn’t know a lot about him. In fact, the thing I knew and appreciated most was he had one of the coolest first names ever! 😉 However, with the promotion of the new movie about Jackie, “42”, coinciding with Jackie Robinson Day this year, I’ve had the pleasure of learning more about him and his impact.
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson
There are great athletes playing all sports today, but none of them had to endure what Jackie had to endure. Athletes today are catered to, while Jackie was spit on. Yet, he performed at a level high enough to earn awards, win pennants, and most importantly respect. Young athletes should know through sports they have an opportunity to impact the lives of others.
Jackie…more than a baseball player
Jackie Robinson was a Hall of Fame Baseball player. Many people know he was also great at football, basketball, and track, as he lettered in four sports while in college. But what sets him apart, on top of his great athletic ability, was great courage, and unfathomable self-control.
“If I had to choose between baseball’s Hall of Fame and first class citizenship for all of my people. I would say first-class citizenship” – Jackie Robinson
Perhaps an ignorance of Jackie and what he went through is part of the reason many athletes have many off the field issues. Young athletes today should remember their character is more important than their success in sports.
Jackie…more than an individual
While Jackie was the first African-American to play Major League Baseball since before the 1900s, he did not want to be the last. He understood this opportunity was not for him alone, but for all the other African-Americans playing now and in the future.
“The way I figured it, I was even with baseball and baseball with me. The game had done much for me and I had done much for it” – Jackie Robinson
His mistakes would not be his own, but attributed to every other African-American baseball player. A mistake could shut the door which had been opened, or at least delay it for others. Young athletes should play the game not just for themselves, but play and handle themselves unselfishly.
Jackie…more than a spectator
Jackie Robinson did not have to accept the opportunity to play baseball in the Major Leagues. In fact, he played professional football before he played professional baseball. Yet, he took on the opportunity to play baseball, and integrate the Major Leagues head on.
“Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life” – Jackie Robinson
He understood what he would face when he made his decision. It would be no easy task. It would test him in every way. He gave all he had to it, on and off the field. Young athletes should face challenges head on. It will grow them as an athlete and a person.
Jackie Robinson and the next generation
My son has his Opening Day baseball game this Saturday. There are players of all colors, races, and ethnic backgrounds in his league. He has no idea how Jackie Robinson’s life and career made that possible. He can learn many lessons by “meeting” Jackie Robinson. I am looking forward to introducing him, and sharing all the stories and lessons I know with him.
Have you introduced your youth athletes to Jackie Robinson?
Question: What about Jackie Robinson’s story has impacted you most?