Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Exemplary athletes from the neighborhood

I live on a fairly small block – 12 houses – but we’re blessed with three athletes I often use as a teaching example.

Our block is awash with kids, ages 1 to high school. On many days, there are more than 10 swirling around. The street serves as basketball court, hockey rink, race course and chalkboard.

Rachel Wirth, her younger brother Joe, and Mallory Parke are high-school athletes who have the eyes of the younger set on them. My son Jack (he’s 10) is a budding athlete, and whenever we can, my wife and I drop reminders of what’s important.

“I bet Joe eats vegetables. You need that for soccer on hot days.”

“Mallory keeps her grades up, and I bet there’s plenty of times she’s tired after swimming, but she still does her homework.”

“See Rachel running in the offseason.”

It has more impact when he can see and knows an example, rather than seeing some overhyped professional on SportsCenter.

None of our three neighbors is a superstar on their varsity teams, but most kids aren’t. They’re solid citizens, contribute to their teams, and more importantly, don’t have the 9-to-11-year-old set asking about the wrong things.

Rachel Wirth (now a sophomore at Virginia Tech) played soccer at Charlotte Catholic. Joe Wirth is a junior, and was on Catholic’s state championship soccer team last fall. Mallory Parke is a sophomore swimmer at Myers Park.

I realize some day Rachel, Joe and Mallory will be off to college, careers and the adventurous world of adulthood.

But for now, I’m glad they’re around.

They’re going through plenty of normal teen stuff, and we hear about the occasional bumps from their parents. I know that’s my future. My son and his buddies will be the high-schoolers on the street, and those 7’s and 8’s will be looking up to them.

So, Rachel, Joe and Mallory, keep up the good work. You’re aware of the adults who’re helping you stay in line, but the little eyes are watching too.

For what they see, I’m grateful.

Your neighbor,