I glanced at a headline on Yahoo Sports about how Bradley University just signed letters of intent for two very young brothers — the youngest in the school’s history — to come play for its basketball team and promptly rolled my eyes.
We’ve all read the stories — like this one about an 11-year-old who’s going off to college now to study quantum physics. I feel terrible for kids like this. Terrible because they’re so exceptionally intelligent that remaining in regular school with kids their own age means they’ll be bored silly and always itching for more stimulation. Terrible that the only way they can excite their advanced minds is by being prematurely socialized with others way too old for their immature bodies. And terrible that they’ll never know a normal life and will probably always be plagued by thoughts and ideas far too advanced for most of the people around them.
Also included in my eye roll was the idea that these young Bradley University recruits are being exploited for their talent at such a young age that they have no hope of any kind of a normal life. They’ll burn out before they even get to college, I thought.
And then I actually read the story and there was still movement in my eyes, but it was from the tears welling up inside them.
It’s not one of those stories. As it turns out, it’s one of the good ones.
Johnah Sahrs, 5, has been undergoing treatment for stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma for the past year and a half. His old brother Jarrett, 9, has been by his side the entire time as a source of strength and encouragement. A non-profit organization called Team Impact, whose mission is to pair gravely ill kids with their favorite sports teams, put the Sahrs family in touch with Bradley, and the boys have been enjoying meetings with their favorite players and coaches.
But it was last Friday that Bradley really got creative in its efforts to make the Sahrs boys smile: Johnah and Jarrett took part in a grand ceremony at Renaissance Coliseum in which they signed letters of intent — mock ones — just like they’ve seen the top college recruits do. The boys also have a place on the Bradley athletic site and were given their own jerseys.
As sports get more competitive and cut-throat, kids are pressured to succeed at younger and younger ages. We talk about these kinds of problems and issues all the time. And all the while, some kids wish they had those kinds of problems, but theirs are life-and-death. Like Johnah’s.
It’s nice to know that there are still some schools and teams that have their eye on the prize, which has nothing to do with a trophy and championship. After all, is there a sweeter reward than the happiness they’re bringing to the Sahrs boys this season?
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