Sports teach lessons for life

By Lynne Vagt and Cheryl Gordon

In America, it’s soccer. In most of the rest of the world, it’s futball. In anybody’s language, it’s just a game. But soccer, like so many of its sporting cousins, including football, baseball, swimming and track and field, immerses young people in a training ground for life.

In his book, “Games Do Count,” Brian Kilmeade recounts the personal tales of 70 people who have reached the top of their respective professions, telling how athletics helped to shape them into leaders. From Henry Kissinger to John Bon Jovi, from Joan Lunden to Condoleezza Rice, sports gave these leaders abiding lessons in winning, losing, dedication, discipline and sacrifice.

As Oak Harbor’s students graduate into an increasingly complex world, their ability to thrive in the “new economy” of the 21st Century will be directly related to their academic achievement, their practical skills, and their ability and willingness to adapt. As they prepare for college and beyond, many of our students will find that no single endeavor has given them more “real world” training than their athletic pursuits. The National Collegiate Athletic Association reminds its student members that their athletic background has given them some of the most highly prized attributes of American business. That list includes:

Ability to organize time well.

Ability to work well with others.

Goal directedness.



Persistence and endurance.



Ability to take criticism.


Dave Johnson of Oak Harbor’s Whidbey Island Bank echoed those observations, saying, “Students who participate in activities (including sports) during high school make better employees later in life. They generally have a strong work ethic, are good team players and have learned to work together with other people. We see what they have done as an indicator that they will be good employees.”

Like many other local business, Whidbey Island Bank has invested in its future by investing in Oak Harbor’s athletes, last year buying new chairs for sports team members to use during games.

Countless surveys and studies advocate the benefits of high school athletics, consistently demonstrating that student-athletes tend to have higher grade point averages, lower school absences, lower dropout rates, higher graduation rates and fewer discipline problems than non-athletes. In the quest for college admissions and funding, athletics often plays a crucial role, demonstrating maturity and leadership, and bringing a potentially unique skill set to the college. As with participation in other high school activities, participation in athletics is often a predictor of later success – in college, a career and as contributing members of society.

Hundreds of students take part in Oak Harbor High School athletics each year. Faced with limited resources and substandard facilities, the school offers 18 sport activities, spanning three seasons and 40 teams at various skill levels, making the core lessons of athletics available to students with a wide range of interests and abilities. The school hopes to improve the quality and scope of it athletic and activity offerings with the passage of a construction bond on Nov. 8. If passed, that bond would fund the construction of a new athletic stadium, field and track, and improvements to other sports fields on the high school property.

Thirty years ago, ABC’s Wide World of Sports brought the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” into our homes every Saturday afternoon. Today, our children are often guarded from experiencing either the thrill or the agony in many areas of life, and yet it remains a constant reality throughout adulthood. Far from simply being fun and games, athletics is a rigorous training ground for our youth, thrusting them into the important life lessons that will make them better students, better citizens, better workers and better leaders.

Oak Harbor residents Lynne Vagt and Cheryl Gordon own a business called “Think College,” which helps students and parents prepare for college.

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