A time for our kids to learn life lessons
Jeff Kaley, Waurika News-Democrat
It’s that time once again. In the past few days, that uniquely American endeavor known as interscholastic sports began in earnest for a new school year.
Throughout Jefferson County and all around the Sooner state, thousands of young folk who participate in fall sports are strapping on shoulder pads or slipping a hand into a ball glove; cross country athletes are running over hill and dale.
During the next 10 months, about 60 percent of the nation’s junior high and high school young’uns will be involved in games, matches and meets. Interscholastic sports is the biggest extracurricular choice among our teenagers. It’s been that way for generations, and although each new generation finds distractions outside the sports arenas, being a jock still means something.
Until the middle of May, our young athletes will spend countless hours preparing to represent their families, their programs, their schools and their communities.
There will be the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory. There will be smiles, there will be tears. There will be some individuals and teams who over-achieve and some who under-achieve. There will be cheers, there will — unfortunately — be jeers.
There will be some who are stars, and there will be some who only get to play in the final minutes of a blowout. But in team sports, those at the end of the bench are as important as the stars, because they take responsibility, they accept instruction, they enjoy the camaraderie and they try.
There will be a kid who scores the winning touchdown at the buzzer, and there will be a shortstop who lets a grounder go through their legs, allowing the opposing team to score the decisive run. If we do this right, we’ll high-five the one who scores the game-winner, and we’ll hug the one who made the error and remind them the sun will rise tomorrow — because it will.
During the next 10 months, we’ll grieve for the female guard whose basketball career ends with a blown-out knee. Our hearts will sink when a senior wrestler’s final season is wiped out by a broken arm, but we’ll grin a bit when he shows up a week later as the team manager just because he likes being involved.
There will be coaches who seem charmed, whose teams and individuals always reach a high standard; skippers who are masters of the most difficult trick in coaching young athletes — getting them to perform at a level higher than they think they can reach. There will also be coaches who are just as dedicated and just as knowledgeable, but who won’t get the same production from their young charges.
There will be coaches who, quite frankly, got in the wrong profession.
Although it troubles fans to admit it, there will also be reaffirmation of an ancient sports truism: The race is usually won by the horse that’s the biggest, fastest and strongest. Sometimes your kid, your team is just not up to the challenge.
But there will also be reaffirmation of the great sports legend: Sometimes the 100 to 1 long shot wins the race.
There will be confirmation of a reality: Sports does not give kids character, it enhances character traits that already exist. But there will also be confirmation of a rarity: Once in a while, sports gives a disadvantaged kid the tools to make a productive life.
During the next 10 months, there will be some adults who will over-react. There will be some grownups whose behavior will make us blush, who won’t be able to see past their own child or who push their child relentlessly. There will be parents who will blame any mistake their kid makes on somebody else’s kid or the coach or the referee.
It remains a sad fact that from the high school varsity level down to T-ball, most of the ills of youth sports can be traced to adults.
At the same time, there will be some adults who will beam when their child achieves, but they will also cheer for the others as well. There will be parents who won’t show their disappointment, as they explain to their kid that sometimes your best isn’t enough, and what’s important is making the effort.
Do we take interscholastic sports too seriously? Probably. Can it be abused? Absolutely.
But life’s not always fair, not always fun, not always equal, not always pure; in the big game of life, there’s as much losing as there is winning. And for the next 10 months, that’s what our young’uns will be learning.
Posted on Tue, October 19, 2010