Tony's Take: The Children Are Our Future

--- We must protect our babies at any cost...

This past weekend got me thinking about some good ol' days. For one, the high school season is typically over during the Memorial holiday. So, I decided to take a quick trip into my proverbial time machine.

I often think of the journey that I took to get here. I can quickly recall my favorite hobby as a youngster was reading geographical maps and history books as a youngster. It was something that I loved to do first and foremost.

Growing up amongst a fleet of talented neighborhood kids, I was a little tardy on the skill set which delayed my formal introduction to youth athletics (soccer at age 12).

Little did I know at the time while growing up on the north side of Terre Haute, Indiana, those "sandlot" football, basketball, baseball, and "tag" games would pay off several years later. 

Like most kids that I grew up with, I didn't have my father to teach me the fundamentals of athletics, but it would be rude of me to not mention that I had adult figures to look up to. My grandfather Prince Jones made sure I had all of the necessary tools to be successful. I owned a soccer ball, a basketball, baseball glove, bat, spikes, etc.

In high school, I finally developed into an outstanding athlete which ultimately earned me a scholarship to college.

Unfortunately, there is a flip side to things. While I was able to escape many hardships of "hood life", many of my peers were not as lucky. Some of the same guys that dominated the sandlot games had succumbed to the harsh realities of street life. While it is true that everyone must be held accountable for their actions, but I learned there is/was a difference between those who have and a difference between those who do not. And the window of opportunity is a small one...

Flash forward to today, there is no doubt that the pandemic has taken its toll on our youth. I've personally witnessed massive changes in kids, both were physical and mental alterations. It seemed as though no one was around to assist these kids in terms of staying motivated during the lockdown. If weight gain didn't do the trick, the mindset to want to work out and set goals were evaporated. Some parents were in denial, we all were. 

However, on the other side of the gray clouds is a silver lining. In April, we were finally united to practice, mentor, and compete statewide. The high school kids were awarded a state tournament but the grammar school children were not. We are talking the future athletes who potentially could lose an opportunity to showcase themselves on the highest stage. Thanks to Mr. Doug Roberts and countless volunteers, the Illinois Elite Junior High Championships was born. Similar to the Shazam Cross Country Championships during the fall, this meet brought together thousands of youth, family, and fans. I made the trek to Bloomington High School to cover the event and I am glad I did. I was inspired as well as feel there is hope for our children. Let's continue to advocate for them and make this a better place for us all.