How high school sports made me a better person

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:

Going through high school can feel like walking around with a severe sunburn where every touch can be a painful reminder of our vulnerability. Some students deal with it by joining social cliques or bands, or by becoming bullies or loners. Some deal by joining sports teams. That’s what I did and it changed not only my high school experience for the better, but also my future as an adult.

For most high school athletes, the sport we play isn’t just about winning the game, it’s also about defining our individuality among the hundreds of other students in our school. Sure, we want to be heroes on the court or field by winning games, but we also want to win the admiration of classmates and teachers. At the same time, sports allow us to build an insular world of teammates that have our backs off the court during those exposed teenage years in which no amount of padding, blocking or setting screens can protect the fragile heart from all the insecurities we face.