Like many of you, I also attended the opening high school football game a few weeks ago. For over thirty years I attended high school football games as a prescribed ritual. In fact I did not know there were other things to do on Friday nights.
I went as a coach, athletic director, parent, and fan all rolled into one. I experienced all the emotions related to the ups and downs of a high school game. I observed all the tangible results and intangible feelings that our young people experienced during the entire night.
I must admit that my observations were much different when felt as a coach, fan, or parent.
Our county is blessed with some first-class athletic programs with quality coaches, administrators, and outstanding student-athletes. My evening was spent watching my former school, Moundridge, play my alma mater, Inman.
There was no question that my loyalties lie with the Wildcats. However, it was a pleasure to watch 22 young people play their hearts out to win the game.
Obviously, mistakes were made, but that could not detract from the pure joy of seeing these young people competing for the prize.
Why do these young people take the time and energy to be a part of an athletic program? If you were to ask them, I am sure the answers would vary as much as the number of people you would ask. Years ago when I asked young people this question, the most frequent answer was that it was a lot of fun.
Today when I talk to young people, I no longer ask “How did you do?” or “Did you win?,” but, ”Did you have fun?”
For most adults we want to have more than the answer of enjoyment. After all, the amount of time and energy a person gives to such an activity begs a more sophisticated response.
The Kansas State High School Activities Association continually emphasizes activities and sports as being the other half of education. In other words, what are these lessons that one cannot learn in the classroom?
The attributes of teamwork, cooperation, and character-building come to mind. Anyone who has followed the emotional high and lows of sports would probably agree. In its purest form even the “experts” might agree. However, are there trends in high school sports which might impede the development of those intangibles?
Overbearing fans, over demanding coaches and overzealous parents are just a few of the possible reasons that a young athlete might find sports to be no longer enjoyable or educational.
Recently I visited with Gary Musselman, Executive Director of KSHSAA, about this very issue. He said, “In education based sports, coaches, parents and fans need to never forget that all kids are winners who have the courage to come out for the team and dedicate the time, effort and commitment it takes to be a part of the team. Winning is not measured only by the scoreboards.”
Page 2 of 2 - He goes on to say that all student-athletes can be winners even though half the participants will not win on Friday night. The winning will show up in the life skills and lessons learned on Friday night.
Things like hard work, perseverance and commitment cannot be measured only on Friday night. It may take a lifetime to realize.
Where do we go from here? Continue to encourage our young people to be involved in sports and other activities. Studies still show that students involved in school activities will more likely have a higher grade point average and a better chance of finishing high school.
This means that music, band, debate, forensics and other extra-curricular activities enhance the opportunities for student success in other areas.
Is there anything else we as outside observers should be mindful of? First, our young people are participating in one of the special times in their lives. We should honor that. They are involved in activities for a variety of reasons.
Second, as fans we also see athletic contests for a variety of reasons.
Third, as adults we watch high school sports for a variety of reasons.
Our reasons may not be the same as the young people. We should do our best to see that these activities are fun, safe and healthful. A goal should be that there will be meaningful experiences for those who are participating.
At the very least, hopefully these activities can be educational experiences on the same level that our young people learn in the classroom. This is something to consider on the next Friday night you enjoy the action of high school football.