This month is Hispanic Heritage month, and though many of us culturally are tied to different countries, as Hispanics there are many things that bind us. We have a great love for and place huge importance on family. Our traditions are respected and our elders are revered. Love and affection flows. Unfortunately, there are other things we share as Hispanics that are not as positive. Statistics show that 1 in 3 young people and 41 percent of Hispanic youth are considered overweight or obese. Being Hispanic and the fact that obesity runs in my family I could have easily become part of that population. I was lucky in that I sort of happened into sports and physical activity became part of my life.
The importance of playing sports cannot be overstated. Sports have always played such a critical role in my life, and now it has the same level of importance in the life of my children. I don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t play a sport. At five my mom put me to play softball. I had been dancing ballet until then, but I had an older brother who played baseball. My mother was finding it challenging to be in two places at once, and since it would be a bit more awkward to put him in ballet with me, she put me to play in the park with him. That began my love of softball, and I was always playing on at least one team until the age of 18. I also played basketball because my brother played, and picked up volleyball because I was able to apply some of my softball skills.
Through sports I learned the importance of teamwork, but also emotional control and focus. You also learn how to take on tasks and challenges, and how to deal with the frustration of not being the best but knowing that practice and dedication can get you far. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it also was an important factor in my health. To this day, working out is part of my daily routine. The fact is that
I hear my daughters come home after volleyball practice and complain about being sore, recounting stories of burpees, squats, and sprints, and I know that while they might not realize it yet, being physically active will always be part of their life. Through sports they are creating a healthy lifestyle.
Today there are several opportunities to get our kids involved in sports, and I am always encouraging my friends to get their kids into something, even if they think their kids aren’t athletic. It also teaches them to stick to something and you will see the gains. You can’t possibly play baseball from the age of 5 to 18 and be horrible at it. You may not be natural talent, you may not be the star, but I promise you it will become part of your blood and you will learn that you can do anything, even something you were horrible at. When I started playing softball I would try to through with my right hand while stepping with my right foot, which is totally wrong! I was horrible and couldn’t seem to break out of it. By the time I was 10 I had such an incredible arm that they always put me in the outfield because I could throw it easily into home and get the out.
There are opportunities at parks and schools. Anthem Foundation has supported and generously donated to programs such as Triple Play Program. Triple Play makes millions of connections with kids to share the importance of physical activity and proper nutrition through the program’s three components, focused on mind, body and soul. They have given more than $15 million in grants to the Boys and Girls Clubs because they are committed to promoting healthy, active lifestyles, and reducing childhood obesity. My girls played soccer at our local Boys and Girls Club and flag football. There are always ways to get involved, but the point is to do it. Even if they struggle in the beginning help them stick with it and see their improvements. There are so many lessons you learn from team sports that are incredibly helpful later in life, one of which is the importance of being physically active and taking care of yourself.