After an enjoyable day of golf, Cross discussed the importance of youth sports, signed some footballs and memorabilia and even answered some questions from fans about the upcoming season.
Cross played football, baseball and basketball in YMCA and Pop Warner leagues growing up in Alabama. He said he was playing sports year-round, and there was always some sort of game going on.
While he played for the legendary Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, Cross said his Little League coach had more of an impact on shaping his life. As a coach now himself, Cross finds that he tries to instill the same life lessons that he learned as a kid.
“The things you tell them at this stage isn’t so much about the game as it is about how to have fun, how to be accountable and how to be dependable,” he said. “You’re actually teaching them lessons in life that they can live by and have fun. You can’t go out and say you’re going to win every game because that’s not really what it’s about.”
Cross starting speaking to the crowd behind a podium, but almost immediately, he stepped away from the microphone and allowed his booming voice to project around the room, thus engaging everyone present. He spoke about how each sport can teach a different lesson.
“Football teaches you to be accountable and dependable,” he said. “You’re accountable for what you’re doing, and you’re dependable because someone depends on you. In basketball, it teaches you to share. It’s a great game of sharing because you can’t do anything without giving the ball up. Baseball teaches concentration and understanding where you need to be at all times. Golf teaches you above all things that you remember that you have to do the next thing. Whatever you did last doesn’t really count. It’s the next thing that’s happening. You can only do it one swing at a time.”
Cross said that it’s fine for parents and coaches to teach their kids how to win, but in order for them to win, they have to lose too.
“My mom used to say a long time ago, ‘You can’t fight until you get beat up,’” he said. “So you have to get beat up to learn how to fight, and you don’t really learn how to win until you’ve lost a game or two. That is what CYO and all youth sports organizations are supposed to be teaching kids, not winning every championship. It’s how to get up when something goes wrong.”
One fan asked Cross how the Jets would do this year, and he said that the team really didn’t address its gaping needs and would have a long season. When someone asked about the Giants, Cross predicted the team would finish 9-7 – since it always seems they finish 9-7 even when they win the Super Bowl, he said.
He also said that he would take Eli Manning in a game over Phil Simms. However, if there were no pass rush, he’d go with Simms as a passer.
Playing youth sports laid the foundation for Cross’ successful athletic career, and he said it’s been a great way for him to develop lifelong friendships.
Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.