I have had a lot of time in the last few months to think about what sports means as a whole to our society. You know the old saying “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone?” That most definitely applies to these last three months or so. Sports are a distraction for us during hard times, but they also can teach us a lot as well.

Sports taught me about working together with others. The concept of teamwork that you need your entire life was taught to me at a young age thanks to sports. I learned to pass the ball to teammates on the basketball court. I learned to work with players on the field in baseball to ensure we knew who was going to do what in certain situations. In football if you are a running back or quarterback you have to rely on your lineman to protect you and they also need to know you, and your tendencies to best protect you or how to block so you can gain those extra yards.

All of these things you have to have in life to be successful. I cannot come into work every day and write whatever I want whenever I want without letting anyone know. Even if I write what I want I still need someone to lay it out on the page for me. I still need someone to get it ready to go on the press and then be printed. I still need someone to put my work online so others can read it. In just my job alone I have to constantly work with other people to ensure that the sports section is right each and every issue, and I am sure that goes for every job out there.

Of course you can learn teamwork and other traits in places other than sports, but playing it and learning it through experience helped me in ways that I didn’t know.

You also learn to win and lose and how to handle that. I remember my dad coaching me every year in baseball and basketball until I was probably close to 12 years old. He taught my teammates and I about winning and losing and how to handle those situations. We knew how bad losing felt, but we also knew that we had to give it our best effort each time out and if we still came up short we at least knew it wasn’t because of lack of effort.

One of the biggest things in my opinion that sports can do for children is to give them a place to be a kid. There are a lot of children in this world that have home lives that are horrendous. They may not have parents around to care for them, or they are tasked with growing up and handling things at home that they shouldn’t have to at a young age but they do because they are the only ones that can.

We don’t know what the person standing right next to us is going through sometimes, and giving these kids an opportunity to play sports and interact with kids their own age can provide them with something that is much bigger than sports.

There are a lot of professional athletes out there today that credit sports with saving their lives. Whether they were headed down the wrong path with whom they hung out with or the things they were doing or whatever the case may be, sports gave them the chance to get out of the places they were in.

Some people don’t get sports or they don’t like them for whatever reason, and I respect that because that is their opinion, but what I don’t like are those that say things about athletes based off of nothing other than what they think. Ask 50 professional athletes from various sports, and I guarantee you that close to half of them will tell you that sports taught them more about life than you ever imagined.

I am currently reading a book titled “All They Had,” and it features sports writing from David Halberstam, and this quote in the book was what inspired me to write this today.

“Sometimes sports mirrors society, sometimes it allows us to understand the larger society a little better. But mostly, it is a world of entertainment, of talented and driven young men and women who do certain things with both skill and passion.”

Johnathan Kirland is a sports writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him jkirkland@gazettevirginian.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnathanK_GV