Growing up in a football family, I’ve always loved the game. I watched it on TV. I went to high school games. My dad and I worked on passing routes in the backyard. I enjoyed every bit of it.

There was a catch. I never liked playing for a team. Maybe it was the screaming coaches or the long practices. Whatever it was, no matter how hard I tried, I didn’t take to it, and it left me out of that sense of belonging that comes with team sports.

There was one thing I really did enjoy doing: making people laugh. Whether I was telling a joke or doing an impression, it made me happy to put smiles on the faces of my adoring fans.

So, if my love for football wasn’t translating to the field, I needed to join something that I would truly enjoy. It was then in early middle school that my parents signed me up for a summer theater camp at the Old Town Playhouse in Traverse City.

I recall feeling apprehensive my first day of camp. We did all these goofy vocal and physical exercises. The instructors were over-the- top. My fellow campers were, to put it delicately, eccentric. I didn’t think I would last.

The second day we had to audition for our role in the production. No problem, I thought. But then horror struck. I learned that day the production was a musical. I had to sing!

I had never sung before (outside of my stellar Elvis routine). What was I going to do? Then it hit me. If I was pretty good at doing impressions, why not pretend that I could sing?

When it came time for me to audition, I stood center stage, looked out at my fellow campers, took a deep breath, and bellowed out the notes with as much false confidence as I could.

I couldn’t believe what came out of my mouth. It sounded good. It sounded really good. I finished the song and looked at my instructor. With a big smile, he said, “Wow, very good!”

Finding my voice that day changed my life. I was cast in a supporting lead role in that musical and would go on to perform in nearly 20 different productions through college. I had finally found my “team,” the place where I belonged. This group of eccentrics would become my lifelong friends.

But theater did so much more than that. Performing gave me valuable skills that I carried on through my personal and professional life; the ability to speak confidently and clearly, to surely take center stage when needed, to speak in front of a group without (too much) fear, and more.

So, if the football field, basketball court, or track isn’t the right fit for your son or daughter, considering signing them up for a theater class. It just might change their life.