The funny thing about sports is that so much of what we get out of playing them has nothing to do with sports at all.

You know the kinds of friends you want your kids to have in life? The loyal ones. The hard workers. The leaders. The includers. The encouragers. Well, they find them playing sports.

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Looking back on my high school and college years, the strongest friendships I’ve knownthe ones I will remember most fondlyformed because of a common interest, a common goal. In my case, that was a passion for softball. Of course, I have some amazing friends who didn’t play sports, but softball friends are a special breed. My teammates became so much more than simply girls I won softball games with.

They were my life-mates. They were a constant through the good and the bad.

The same girls who lifted me up from the dirt after a slide into home picked me up from the floor after a breakup. The same girls I spent early morning hours with sweating it out on the field sat next to me on barstools into the latest hours of the night. The same girls who celebrated big wins and championships with me danced in circles at my wedding. These girls gave me strength when I was weak, hope when I lost my confidence, laughter when I was near tears, and the motivation to keep fighting for them no matter what.

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Often times we wonder if competitive sports are worth it, if we are taking all of the fun, freedom, and carelessness away from our kids.

But just maybe, we are giving them so much morethe chance to find their forever friends.

These are the friends who will carry them through the hardest patches of life. These are the friends who they can call, no matter how much time has passed. These are the friends who will always love them for who they are. These are the friends who are the greatest gift in life.

And to think it all can start because you play a sport.

Originally published on the author’s Facebook page

Rachel Steigerwald

I am a teacher, a mother of two, and am "running" my way through the chaos of life, one mile at a time. I hope that by sharing my personal experiences of being a busy, working mother to a child with dyslexia, I can promote kindness, acceptance, and understanding for those who may be struggling.