Random Thoughts: Note to Sports Parents

There's been another death of a college football player, a young man down in Missouri collapsed during a workout, and later died. They don't know why just yet, but da coach points out that once again some sports parents have come face to face with a reality that nobody ever wants to talk about - your child could die playing ball..

Before I start, I need to ask a question...
What do you know about working hard in the heat of the summer?

Teen aged boys, especially athletes, are a funny bunch. They'll work all day digging holes in 90 degree heat for a landscaper, go to the gym to work out, stay up watching the All-Star Game, and then get up early and go out digging holes in that heat again.

I know, I have one of those.

In fact, I actually have two. I helped raise [with my wife and many coaches] two almost obsessively driven ball players who think they are invincible - one even told me that once.

Now, we don't know the cause of Aaron O'Neal's death Tuesday. I can guess that he was a typical football playing college athlete trying to stand out and make his team [Missouri].

He also probably was living the typical college student life - stay up late, get up early, go to a workout in the middle of the day, a workout probably designed to get the players conditioned to the heat they'll experience during games in the early Fall. He was probably a little bit tired when he arrived.

Sounds familiar, right?

Florida's Erste Autin was another kid who gave everything to try to make the team one summer. So was Korey Stringer of the Vikings, Steve Bechler of the Baltimore Orioles, and Northwestern's own Rashidi Wheeler. All of them were trying to make their team better by excelling during their summer workouts, and paid a terrible price.

We'll probably never fully document what happened to O'Neal, just like some are still debating the deaths of Autin, Stringer, Bechler and Wheeler.

But because of their deaths, and the deaths of other college and high school athletes, the welfare of your kids should never be far from a sports parent, or a coach's mind.

The purpose of sports is to push yourself to the highest physical level possible. Aaron, like every kid playing ball at every level was doing just that. Good sports parents, coaches and trainers always try to help.

But all you can do as a coach or parent is make sure your kids learn how to approach those limits without injury, the use of chemicals, or worse. Sometimes you can't.

When I coach, Rashidi Wheeler's death, and the mind set that might have led him to push himself over his limits in the heat of the day, is never far from my mind.

If you are a sports parent, mom or dad; Rashidi, Steve, Korey, Erste, and now Aaron should never be far from your mind either.

Fortunately, so far, all my sports kids have managed to survive.

I cannot imagine the grief of Aaron O'neal's family, but my heart goes out to his parents and loved ones.
-- da Coach

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