August 23, 2010

Respect drives high school sports

By Gary Hawkins
Staff Writer

I was speaking with a veteran high school coach the other night and the subject of motivating athletes came up. The coach, who had once coached a spring team, acknowledged the difficulty of motivating athletes that time of year, especially with the freedom of summer or graduation on the horizon.

That's not the case in the fall when kids are raring to get started. So, for that matter, are coaches, fans and sportswriters. With that in mind, here's a little unsolicited advice for the participants.

To athletes: With examples like LeBron James and Brett Favre to follow, it can be difficult to think that the sport you play is not all about you. It's not. Even in individual sports such as golf and cross country, teamwork and support for your teammates is important. When it comes to football, soccer and field hockey it's absolutely necessary for success.

Stories of feuding teammates can be overcome now and then at the professional level but they rarely pan out in high school. Be a good teammate and good things usually follow. If it's high school sports season, stories of favoritism by coaches are bound to surface. So and so is playing because of his or her last name, etc. Good coaches don't operate this way. They reward players who practice and play hard and follow directions.

If you have a problem, go through the chain of command, starting with the team captain and then the coach, instead of crying to mom and dad first. If you aren't getting enough playing time or feel put upon by your coach or teammates, there's usually a good reason.

Most important of all, work hard in school and maintain your eligibility. Although sports and other extra curricular activities are an important part of education, they are a distant second to studies.

To parents: Support your son and daughter. The last thing they want to hear after a loss or a mistake in a game is a critique of their performance, or for that matter of the coach. Be a participant, too. Many schools require parents to serve in concession stands or help in fund raisers. Go beyond that if you have the time. Volunteers are the bedrock or every successful high school sports program.

If you think your kid is being treated unfairly, see the coach or the athletic director. Way too often these days, parents go to the principal or the superintendent first. They have more important things to do.

Most of you don't need this advice and the few who do will likely ignore it. Look at it this way, just as it only takes one or two bad teammates to screw a team up, the same holds true for parents.

To fans: Passion runs high when it comes to the hometown team, and that's not a bad thing. It's what brings people to games and helps inspire athletes. Just channel your enthusiasm toward your team. When you scream at officials, coaches or opponents, you not only set a bad example, you also look like a jerk. With the exception of football and playoff contests, these games are free and not a bad way to spend two or three hours. Appreciate what you're getting.

If you do pay the three or four bucks to get in, that doesn't entitle you any extra privileges, and remember, these are amateur athletes.

To coaches and athletic directors: You know your jobs and don't need any advice from me. It's worth remembering, though, that you are role models to the athletes you coach as well as people in the community. From a selfish point of view, the earlier games are reported to us, the better we can feature them and the kids involved.

The operative word in the fall and throughout the high school sports season is respect -- for athletes, coaches, teammates, parents, fans, opponents and the sports in which they participate.

Gary Hawkins -- 621-5638

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