When dreams go awry it is seldom much fun. When it happens to one who is used to high expectations it can be more troubling. When it happens to someone who is young and who has built his or her future hopes on the dream it is tragic.

Many of you who read this weekly column understand that my philosophy regarding high expectations. However, I also believe in realism of expectations. Especially when it comes to competing in sports. I’ve often said that the participant numbers dwindle with each increased level of competition. The finality of making it as a professional in any sport is somewhere between a wish and a prayer.

Yes, it is OK to dream big! Yes, there are people who make it to the professional ranks. The reality is that there are many obstacles along the path to professionalism in sports. The list of roadblocks is endless. The list includes everything from opportunity to injury. When opportunity is the roadblock it is tragic. But, generally I believe where there is a will to succeed, there is a way to succeed. Opportunity is something that can be overcome. Injury on the other hand is sudden and often unexpected.

As sports enthusiasts we all have the pleasure of watching our children, our neighbor’s children and even children of people we don’t even know. Unless there is a relationship with that child we often don’t know much more about the competitor at an early age other than the fact that they are participating.

As the competition increases the audience and name recognition increase along the way. Unless it’s an Indiana kid by the name of Damon Bailey it is likely we never hear about them when they are in junior high. Greg Oden is another Indiana kid that at the high school level has already achieved national acclaim. College competition brings more name recognition and higher expectations. Many college competitors become household names.

But, where do the young men go who are injured. They may be at the top of their game and then the injury bug derails all of their dreams. And, unfortunately, we forget about them. Some recover from injuries to go on to professional fame and others never get healthy and go on to careers in the working world, less the fame and name recognition.

Many of you have read some of my rantings about associations with folks who have gone on to professional careers. You’ve read of my college roommate’s son who plays basketball at Creighton University. His name is Nate Funk for those of you who may not be familiar with him.

Nate has experienced the pleasure of much success in his athletic endeavors over the years. Hours and hours of practice and training were turning into a great investment of Nate’s time. Baseball, basketball or whatever he chose as a sport he’s realized success. As a sophomore in high school the injury bug that eventually cost him the all-time scoring title for Sioux City, Iowa City basketball bit Nate. He fell a few points shy of Kirk Hinrich who is the starting guard for the professional Chicago Bulls. He recovered from that injury to have successful junior and senior years in high school. Successful enough to get scholarships in order to play at Creighton. Each year, Nate has improved to enjoy more playing time and more recognition. He is even being compared favorably to the recent Creighton grad, now plays professionally for the Philadelphia 76ers, Kyle Korver.

Street and Smith’s College Basketball magazine honored Nate this year with a third team pre-season All-American notice. Nice recognition even before the season started. A 38-point game against the Dayton Flyers early in this season helped springboard Nate to a great start for his senior year.

And then…the injury bug!

Nate’s been out now for a few weeks and will hopefully get the news regarding the rest of the season. There are a few options at this point. Play through the pain, rest to have the injury to his shoulder heal or surgery that is certain to end his season. The decision will be made shortly after Christmas.

We hear of athletes injuring themselves all the time. Unless we have any personal connection to that athlete it is likely that we even think twice of that individual. Unfortunately, injured athletes are sometimes discarded without a second thought.

Our family relationship with the Funk’s is one where we too feel their pain. The saving grace in this is that we know Nate as a survivor who has faced adversity before and come back to beat the odds. He’s a quality young man with a great work ethic who comes from a nice family.

Let’s hope this Christmas was special for the Funk family. We hope they enjoy the pleasures of the holy season and the hopes of good news of Nate’s recovery that leads to continued success in his sport in which he has dedicated himself.

The miracles of Christmas show up in many different ways. Hopefully, the miracle of Christmas found its way into your home this special season.

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