We are nearing the end of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, and I am amazed at the great athletic talent which exists amongst the Olympians. Sports, especially the Olympics, is a consummation of years of practice, dedication, and a goal. As they slide, glide and skate down and around, these athletes make a show of something extraordinary look ordinary.

Maybe you are like me and you watch the television in awe and tense anticipation. Maybe you are like my mother who tunes in for the stories behind the athlete – like Mikaela Shiffrin who’s coach is both her best friend and her mom. Maybe, like my wife, you once had a dream of standing on the podium yourself.

A sport is so much more than a game.

Sports are not just for kids. Sports are not just for the athletically gifted. Sports do not have to involve a ball, puck, or any other accessory.

Sports are where we spend time focusing on bettering our mental and physical health, often in a social setting.

In my own life, I train and run to spend time with my wife who encourages me daily to live healthier. During our time on the track together – she offloads every detail about her day and I struggle to breathe while responding with “uh-huhs.” I am not a running junky, but I will be completing a virtual 5k with the YMCA this month.

Every week I witness over a dozen people come together to play Pickleball in Mason City. It might be the fastest growing sport in America, but the game itself is only one of the reasons it is so popular. Those who come together have formed new friendships or strengthened old ones. It’s also a sport bridging gaps between generations from teenagers to those over the age of eighty.

The time is never too late to get inspired and be active.

My hope and encouragement for us all is to use the downhill momentum of the Olympics to reignite an old passion, or start a new one. Find time to go swimming with your child, invite a friend to go on a walk with you, or find an exercise group to get in that Olympic shape you crave.

We have spent enough time on the couch watching others perform. Isn’t it time we train for the Olympics of everyday life? 

At the core of each Olympian competing are desires to be push the boundaries of possibilities. Go faster than before. Jump higher than last time. Be better than they thought possible. While only a few will wear a medal around their neck, they will all walk away knowing they faced the challenge.

The 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games will expose a new generation of potential athletes to the power of sports.

Olympians can be considered the best athletes in the world who break the barriers of what has never been done before, however, only a handful of athletes will wear a medal around their neck, but all will walk away knowing that they have faced the challenge. All youth should have the opportunity to push the boundaries of possibility.

Heath Hupke is the associate executive director of the Mason City Family YMCA. Reach him at hhupke@masoncityymca.org.