While all area high schools will be officially opening their doors to students in the next two weeks, many of those students have already found their way back to the facilities’ athletic fields.
Almost every sport will have started practicing for the upcoming fall 2011 high school sports season by the end of August, all with eyes on athletic excellence, quality competition and, in the case of varsity teams, a chance to chase the goal of a sectional or even state championship.
The first games are set to take place Labor Day weekend, with a full set of Northern Football Conference games on tap, quickly to be followed by the new Section VII unified soccer season and Section X soccer season, as well as the volleyball, cross country, girls swimming and cheerleading seasons.
This is just the beginning to a new year of sports in all three seasons: fall, winter and spring, where student athletes will take to the field, pool, mats and courts to try their best.
With that comes a few reminders about making sure that the student athletes, coaches and officials enjoy the season, as well as those who come to watch their children, family, friends and alma mater play.
First, when it comes to modified and junior varsity sports, let’s remember that there are no championships here. Sure, it’s nice to win, but these levels are to prepare student athletes for the varsity levels.
Coaches need to remember that these are the levels where fundamentals and implementation happen and coach accordingly. It would surprise a lot of people how many modified teams who win very few games then turn into varsity teams that wins sectional titles.
Also, this is something that parents and fans have to remember. You may question why a certain move took place, but remember that coaches on these levels are trying to give athletes as much experience as possible, which might not always be in the same interest as winning the game.
When it comes to varsity sports, make sure that the competition stays on the field. Nothing is more embarrassing than seeing fans taunt each other and opposing teams because they feel it is helping their team. It’s not. It’s embarrassing them, the school and, more importantly, the person doing the taunting.
No one goes to work the next day and says, “Did you see how so-and-so screamed at the ref for a bad call and then ran down to the sidelines to confront the coach after the game. They have real team spirit.” Instead they say, “Did you see how so-and-so screamed at the ref for a bad call and then ran down to the sidelines to confront the coach after the game. They’re a real jerk.”
Unfortunately, this type of behavior can be promoted when people are allowed to annonymously post derogatory comments about other teams, officials and coaches on websites, or have those comments seen in print. You can’t trumpet the cause of sportsmanship in one breath and then provide a platform for malicious and hurtful speak in another.
Student athletes need to remember the same. There is no need for name-calling, derogatory remarks or insults in the midst of competition. If you think you need to do it because your sports role model does it, you have the wrong role model.
Enjoy the competition. Enjoy playing against your peers in athletic contests. Former opponents can be close friends after the games end, and the glory days are retold to children and grandchildren, or even right after the final buzzer sounds.
This also leads to being a good sport. There is no need to insult or talk bad about a team after a game is finished, because the game is just that — finished. Over.
What would be great is when the end-of-game lineup takes place, every player and coach meant what they said when they went through that line, instead of walking through like a zombie mumbling out, “good game” or “nice job.” Be sincere in victory and defeat.
So, to all who are ready for another scholastic sports season, here is to a safe, fun and, hopefully, sportsmanship-filled year of competition.