Thousands of people will come to our region this summer from July 29-August 7 to support approximately 15,000 young athletes competing in the 44th Annual AAU Junior Olympic Games, which Hampton Roads is hosting for the fourth time.
We’re proud to have the games back. We know they’re in good hands with the support of the Hampton Roads Sports Commission, led by Jack Ankerson, who will be inducted into the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame in October 2010. The Sports Commission was founded in 1999 as an affiliate of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. It was formed as a partnership among the cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Norfolk, Newport News, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach and the business community.
The Sports Commission previously produced the games in 1998, 2001 and 2006. In addition to the top flight competition the AAU Junior Olympic Games deliver, the events held here in Hampton Roads contributed a combined economic impact of $107 million to our region. And in 2003, the Sports Commission produced the National Senior Games-Senior Olympics in the region, bringing with it $28 million.
I love to watch the families coming together to support these terrific competitors, in part, because I can relate to the hard work, dedication and sacrifice it takes for a young person to succeed in sports.
I’m not a sports guy, per se, but I am a proud sports dad.
My daughter was a nationally ranked equestrian. It all started when she was nine, with a $5 riding lesson and a confidence that rapidly blossomed in a saddle.
We would drop her off at 7 a.m. to train, anticipating the 5 p.m. call in which she’d ask for one more hour. She’d come home dirty, and happy. She loved being around horses. She loved competing, even when a horse threw her, breaking her back. Within three months, she was competing again.
The sporting spirit that has helped my daughter become an incredible young woman also has enriched my life as a father. The athlete is never truly alone on the field of play. There are the fans, yes, but also there are the people who love them.
That’s especially meaningful when the competitor is a child or a teen.
I bring all of this up because the young people who will compete in our communities this summer remind us that something happens when we practice, hone a craft, whether as a team or an individual.
We can find our potential through sports, and it is often found past our perceived limitations.
This summer, these young competitors need our help.
We’re looking for volunteers. We need people who can do everything from set up and break down equipment for various tournaments, enter scores, take registration, and make sure the right awards go to the right young people.
Also, we need our business leaders to sponsor this vital event, which will bring camaraderie, excellence and visibility to our region.
In past competitions, I visited Norfolk State University to take in the track and field competition. I found myself watching more than the competitors. I watched the stands, too.
It isn’t hard to appreciate the hopes of those watching loved ones, and, by cheers, encourage some of the people who will lead our communities.
As they take great strides, young people often captivate and surprise us. They carry our hopes with them when they pursue a dream, be it in sports, business or life.
Please consider supporting the AAU Junior Olympic Games with your sweat, wallet and your cheers.
For more information about the Sports Commission’s work with the 44th Annual AAU Junior Olympic Games, and volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, please visit www.hamptonroadssports.org. Or reach Lauren Carpenter via (757) 664-2573. For general information on the games, visit www.aaujrogames.org.
Jack Hornbeck, CCE, is President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and can be reached at 757-664-2500.