By STEVEN RAY HERNANDEZ
(San Benito, Tx)- Outside a local corner store in an area known as “La Palma,” sat a young, fairly tall man crouched over with his elbows on his knees. His eyes deadlocked on a fence across the street, almost as if he was hypnotized by what seemed to be an overwhelming power of…………….well, nothingness. Slowly he rocked back and forth, ignoring every by-passer while continuing to gaze at seemingly nothing, almost as if he was contemplating an inevitable tragedy.
It was one of those things when you say to yourself, “something is definitely wrong here.” And something definitely was. In all honesty, it was a look of distress that made me think, “this guy is about to do something really bad (to himself or someone else).”
Now, I don’t know exactly what was wrong with him that day, but I don’t think it be too far-fetched to say that it was probably some sort of substance-abuse that had taken a negative emotional toll on him.
Fortunately, no tragedy transpired that day, BUT……………..
I would later come to learn that the individual, who was in his mid-20’s, was a former standout football player who was expected to be one of the best members of the 2008-2009 San Benito Greyhound squad. Unfortunately, just like many other cases here in the Valley, that’s not how things played out for the young man. He quit sports, and from what I have gathered, it has been downhill for him since then. Drugs and alcohol led him down a destructive path that ended with a jail sentence, and now, to local street corners and convenience stores where he and many others can be seen panhandling from time to time.
I have witnessed this effect time and time again, and now that I am in a position to bring it to light, here we go:
It seems to me like when our youth are surrounded by the positive environment of sports and other extra-curricular activities, and then are removed from that environment, that the negative impact/effect is far worse than we could ever imagine. And that seems to apply itself even more-so here in poverty-stricken areas such as the Valley, where drug-abuse, violence and corruption run rampant.
I have personally seen standout athletes locally and from surrounding areas that had very promising careers ahead of them, yet flushed them down the toilet due to drugs, alcohol, and even gangs. And to be completely honest, if this was 10-years ago, I may have been writing about myself in this column.
Since the age of 5, I played every major athletic sport, from football, to basketball, to baseball, to even running track. I had no record as a juvenile and by most standards I was considered a “good kid.”
My senior year, we had one of the best baseball teams in the state, and I played so well that I was selected to the prestigious RGV High School East vs. West All-Star game, where several collegiate scouts were on hand looking for select players. I had everything going for me, and then, just like that, from the moment they handed me my diploma, it was all gone.
A life that was once filled daily with practices, scrimmages and games, was now replenished with endless days of partying and trips to clubs, especially across the border in Mexico. The phrase “looking to score” suddenly took on a whole new meaning that had nothing to do with sports.
It was a steadfast approach that quickly landed me in jail. And honestly, if it wasn’t for doing what I’m doing right at this very moment, I would undoubtedly still be there today.
You see, up until the day I graduated, I never realized how much of a positive impact sports had had on my life, and how it kept me on the right “track,” LITERALLY.
If I had not found this outlet in my writings and music, I’m not sure where I would be at today. And I think there, within that notion, lies the solution for all our youth.
Many of our local children will grow up playing sports, which we have identified as being a vital facet to the well-being of their future. But, what happens when that element no longer exists?
I think us as parents, coaches, teachers and mentors must express to our youth the importance of finding as many positive outlets as possible, so that they have more options after high school. Whether it is joining parks and recreations sports leagues, or taking another avenue such as music, or art, or engaging in outdoor activities.
This is why city events, parks, activities, etc. are ample to the well-being of our children. The more we flood and surround them with positive outlets and activities, the less likely they are subject to falling victims to the negative boundaries that continue to restrict are our progress as minorities.
I’m tired of seeing former star athletes, who were once spotlighted all over the newspaper for their accomplishments on the field, now being disgraced in those same very newspapers for their mishaps off the field.
We need to engage our children in sports or extra-curricular activities as much as possible. For all you parents who spend countless hours after work transporting your children and even some of their friends to-and-from practices and games, I applaud you. And trust me, you may not know it now, but something as minor as that, can have a MAJOR impact on your child’s life in the future. Encourage them to take up other hobbies as well. BECAUSE WHEN IT COMES TO POSITIVE OUTLETS, THE PHRASE, “THE MORE THE MERRIER,” DEFINITELY APPLIES.