Why I Am Such A Big Sports Fan

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I'll be honest. I really wanted to write another column about March Madness.

I can't explain it logically. This tournament just makes me giddy. But with three more weeks of spectacular games on the way, I figure I'll be using plenty more ink on the topic before it's all said and done.

This column is called Sports Talk, not March Madness Talk, after all, although that wouldn't be a bad idea. Maybe I'll run it by my editor.

In any event, my love for college basketball and sports in general has often been a topic of conversation, especially among men.

Everyone always wants to know why I love sports so much. They want to know what happened in my childhood that caused me to be obsessed with baseball statistics, to continually correct people about early '90s basketball, or wake up in the wee morning hours to watch World Cup soccer games broadcast live from Germany?

Although I have no extraordinary answer like, "My dad was a pitcher for the Yankees from '82 to '94 and I spent my early childhood traveling with the team," (he wasn't), I do have a simple explanation.

Both of my parents are very athletic. My mom played tennis, softball and soccer and my dad played baseball, football and soccer. Some of my earliest memories are of my parents' indoor soccer and coed softball games.

I always loved watching their games and remember how proud I was when my dad would bury a goal or my mom would prevent a double by cutting off a runner at first.

I played T-ball first, when I was 5, and was one of three girls on the team. I won't claim to be a natural at it, and will admit that the bat, which was almost as big as I was, swung me most times that I was at the plate.

T-ball wasn't really my sport. I needed something with more running and contact involved.

I thought the answer was for me was going to be Pop Warner football. Unfortunately, my parents failed to have the same passion for the idea that I had. In their defense, I was 6 and weighed about 30 pounds and was probably under three feet tall.

Even all these years later, my current 5-foot, 95-pound frame is barely Pop Warner size. They were probably smart to keep me from playing.

Instead, they signed me up for soccer. I think it was one of the best things they ever did for me.

Over the next 13 years of my life, soccer was my obsession. I played nearly year-round. Between my games and my little brother's games, my dad coaching and my mom acting as the world's greatest fan, we became the ultimate soccer family -- minivan and all.

My experiences with soccer are not unlike what many children experience. For those parents wondering if they should sign their child up, I encourage them to do so.

It will benefit your children more than you could ever realize.

It taught me how to treat people and work well with others. It taught me to stand up for myself. It taught me the benefits of hard work and how to deal with losing, in a respectful manner.

I learned to value athleticism, which is something I still value. I stayed out of trouble because I had something to focus on. I made lifelong friends. I wholeheartedly believe that some of my success in life can be attributed to playing soccer while growing up.

Maybe soccer isn't the right sport for every child, but I venture to say there is probably another one out there that will fit.

Sports made and continues to make a huge impact on my life. I'd bet that more often than not, sports would do the same for your children.

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