Although there won’t likely be any athletic scholarships or professional contracts in their futures, both of my kids love playing sports. Like lots of little kids, my sons are obsessed with baseball and basketball, my oldest son in particular. He often doesn’t know what day of the week it is (true story), but he can tell you exactly how many points his favorite team scored in last night’s game and who is currently leading the league in RBIs. In fact, when he was struggling in math earlier this year, he got back on track by practicing with sports stats.
As parents, my husband and I are happy that our kids have a healthy love of sports. My husband enjoys watching games with our sons, and as a former college athlete myself, I’m well aware of the lifelong lessons that can be learned from sports, not to mention the lasting friendships.
However, the pressure for our kids to excel in sports rather than just have fun is intense. I’ve seen parents lose it at referees over bungled calls and curse at volunteer coaches over their child’s lack of play time. I’ve even heard stories about an 8-year-old child spending five or more hours a day training.
This is sports at its worst — where wholesome lessons of fitness, work ethic, and camaraderie go out the window in favor of cutthroat competition for who even knows why. But sports at its best builds us into team players, active members of our community, and compassionate humans always looking to do good. In short, there’s more to becoming a sports star than just playing a game really, really well.
And there’s no better example of an athlete who not only plays the game but also gives back than Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs.
I recently had a chance to chat with Rizzo (which pretty much made me the coolest mom ever in my kids’ eyes — for a day, at least). When I asked him about how he stays focused on wellness in a world that wants athletes to excel at all costs, he said that he does so by minimizing distractions and focusing on the task at hand. When he’s playing baseball, he’s competing. And when the game is done, he goes back to being “just Anthony.”
“Just because you aren’t great at something, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun doing it,” he said. “If you don’t excel, you can still have fun and use sports to keep your body healthy.”
Not only does Rizzo harness mental strength by focusing to minimize distraction, he also prioritizes overall physical wellness. As an athlete, it’s important for him to be in top physical shape, but he said that he also just feels better when he is eating healthy and making sure to stay hydrated. In fact, his pre-game ritual includes drinking a lot of BODYARMOR — a premium sports drink with no artificial sweeteners or flavors and made with coconut water — while he studies video tape of the pitcher he’ll face that day.
“Staying hydrated is a big deal because little injuries can happen if you’re not properly hydrated,” he said. In addition to staying hydrated, Rizzo said he sticks to the “everything in moderation” philosophy.
“I’m conscious of what I put in my body and make sure to stay hydrated, but I don’t deprive myself of fun foods. I just don’t overindulge.”
Not only does Rizzo have a healthy attitude about fitness and physical wellness, but he’s also committed to his community and an all-around good guy. An alum of Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, he recently spoke at a memorial service following the mass shooting at the school. And as a survivor of pediatric cancer, Rizzo created a foundation to raise money for cancer and recently donated $3.5 million to the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
Despite his massive success, Rizzo hasn’t forgotten his roots and said his childhood friends remain some of his best friends to this day.
“I’ve met a lot of great people along the way, but my childhood friends are the ones who are most important to me because they see past the baseball,” he said. “Whenever we’re together, we’re just ‘normal friends’ having everyday conversations.”
There’s no doubt that Rizzo is a hero for many kids, and for good reason. But he said he tries to send the message to kids that “he’s just like everyone else.” When asked who his hero was growing up, he said his older brother.
“He set the way for me, showed me the way, and was just always there.”
And as a mom of two boys, let me tell you, that right there is the best any parent can hope for their kids. Though a World Series ring is a nice added bonus.
Rizzo became a partner and investor in BODYARMOR, a premium sports drink made with potassium-packed electrolytes, coconut water, and natural sweeteners and flavors, several years ago when he discovered it during spring training. Rizzo joined a team of other superstar athletes who also partnered with BODYARMOR, including Mike Trout, James Harden, Andrew Luck, and Dustin Johnson. For more information on BODYARMOR and a coupon, visit www.