View from the sideline: Youth sports set foundation for future

Last week was a stressful week at the newspaper for me, to say the least. When snow is on the ground, trouble is meant to be found.
Of course, with the white stuff comes delays or closings, which mean no sports to cover for me. High schools canceled and moved games. Colleges also delayed their games.
So finding a good story last week for the sports page was a tad difficult. Mash that together with the fact that I’ve only lived here a little more than two weeks and am still unfamiliar with the area, teams, coaches and players, and that added to the chaos.
Through it all though, I brainstormed and had some help in finally coming up with a few different ideas for the week. Toward the end of the week, we came up with the idea to go to the YMCA. Fortunately for me, there were some youth basketball practices I had a chance to cover.
Back where I am from, the YMCA is pretty much shut down. You can clean the cobwebs and dust off of the gym floor. The pools remain relatively quiet, unless the high school swim team comes in. Very few people visit the weight and exercise room.
It is quite sad. When I started my drive to the Adrian L. Shuford YMCA, I expected the same because of what I had seen before. However, what I encountered was a breath of fresh air.
There were tons of people working out. There were various activities going on, including racquetball and basketball. It was a complete 180-degree turn from what I was accustomed to.
Then came my actual coverage of youth basketball. I was able to sit down and watch the 3- to 4-year-olds play hoops. That too had an impact on me. It reminded me of exactly why I got into this business.
Sometimes, you get so caught up in the mainstream sports that you forget this is where it starts. Before the championships, awards or contracts, it all starts in the gyms, playgrounds and places like the Shuford YMCA.
It was nice to see parents helping their children learn the art of basketball. It is a learning experience and a family experience. It is also a great experience as far as getting kids active and in shape for the future.
I encourage anyone who doesn’t believe in the power of sports to really look at what it is all about. Sure, we have some mainstream role models who may not be the best example of what athletes represent, but youth sports are as pure as it gets.
I know growing up as a kid, they were what helped me cope with things and what helped me become the person I am today. They taught leadership, hard work and dedication. It goes way beyond the actual skill of each individual game.
Those types of things can carry you into life and help guide you when you need them the most and when the going gets tough.

Cody Dalton is the sports editor of and a columnist for The Observer News Enterprise. His column appears in the Tuesday edition.