Wednesday, October 25, 2017

4-H Week and College

Well, once again my unerring sense of timing and attention to the calendar rose up to bite me in the posterior. I blew it because I missed National 4-H Week. How could I miss writing a column about something that has impacted my life and more importantly, the life of my kids? I would like to blame it on a busy schedule or maybe harvest, but in the end, I just blew it.

These thoughts came to mind this past week as my daughter and I made a college visit and on the way home I started thinking about how we got to this point. Much of that pointed right back to her involvement in 4-H and FFA. She is considering going to college on a livestock judging scholarship and that is a direct connection to her involvement in 4-H and FFA.

Sometimes life is just funny. I spent a lifetime of coaching 4-H livestock judging teams and trying to convince my 4-Hers that livestock judging was a better and more sure way to earn a scholarship than athletics. I told them that every member of my judging teams came out with a scholarship offer and asked them to quiz their coaches about how that compared to sports. However, when it came to my own daughter I was blinded by the lure of sports too.

Don’t get me wrong, she was and still is a pretty good softball player. I love to watch her play and for a long time we thought she would play college softball. Then life happened. Between disappointing seasons and mounting injuries softball lost some of its glitz. More importantly, during this time period she was on some pretty good judging teams and had more success than either one of us could have imagined including a state championship.

However, I kept pushing softball going against everything I had done as a coach. I ignored the benefits I had gotten from judging in college and those benefits went well beyond the scholarships that paid for my college. Finally, it was my daughter who, admittedly, is much smarter than me and suggested that judging should probably be her path. As we talked I could not have been happier or prouder of her for being more astute and pursuing this path.

All of this was made possible by her involvement in 4-H. Again, in reflection, we spent many hours over many summers at softball fields and I must wonder just how many of those girls were going to college on a softball scholarship. I would not have traded those summers for anything and that time was valuable but it pales in comparison to her 4-H experience.

The skills she gained as a 4-Her go well beyond livestock judging also. I am quite confident that she will earn a number of other scholarships that will help greatly in paying for college. The skills and the experience that will help her in those applications are a direct result of her involvement and leadership in 4-H.

We have already seen the benefits of 4-H involvement with our son. He is currently in college pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine. This academic pursuit is a direct result of his involvement in the veterinary science project in 4-H and the guidance of some awesome volunteers who helped him along the way.

I know all of this sounds like bragging from a proud parent and I will not make any apologies for that but that is not my point. We are now a year away from ending our run as 4-H parents and the view in retrospect is awesome. I guess I always knew that 4-H had played a huge role in my life and that the experiences and skills I gained were invaluable, but I am not sure I valued it as much as I do now.

We live in such a sports crazed society that often we miss the most obvious, important things right in front of us. I am speaking for myself, I really like sports and I know I placed far too much importance on them but maybe others can learn from my experience. Fortunately, my kids are a lot smarter than I am.

Unlike sports, 4-H offers something for every kid, something in which they can find their passion, hone their skills and gain valuable experience. 4-H opens doors that might otherwise might be hidden and paves the way for one’s life work. There are many youth organizations that are equally as great but 4-H is the one I know and the one I have seen make huge impacts on the life of those involved.

I must admit that there is a great deal of satisfaction that my daughter is following the same path I did, despite my shortsightedness. A path made possible by the opportunities provided through 4-H. I guess in the end maybe I didn’t miss 4-H Week. Because, every week is 4-H Week for us because of the impact it has had on our lives and for that I am grateful.

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