New weekly commentary by Sports Editor Matt Cole

So many people, including one of my media colleagues, have asked me why I don't have my own column yet here at the McPherson Sentinel. The only way I could really answer each of them was that I didn't really know. I have talked about, ponder it, tried to think of names for it, even run things I might write about through my mind but I just hadn't taken the time to sit down and start it, until now.

Beginning today and every Thursday I will pen my opinions for you in my new weekly column "Beyond the X's and O's". Why that name? I coached football for 28 years, played for 10 and have been around sports for all of my 52 years on this ball of mud. While I am not the first coach to be in the media, I do believe that those who have been on the playing and coaching side of sports bring a unique perspective to covering and reporting on sports. As you'll see, there is more to a coach and to athletics than just x's and o's.

While it is exciting to be able to give my opinion and some have even told me they want to know what I think, it will come with its challenges. I am pretty good at giving my views on things but I don't promise it will always be, or maybe ever be, the popular opinion and you may disagree with me often. But that is what opinions are for and I always welcome yours in response to anything I write. So, now that we've laid the foundation, here we go.

As we begin the new school year and our fall athletes are taking the field, many for the last time ever as they enter their senior year in high school, I can't help but reflect on what I consider the most challenging aspect of sports, the parents. And not so much my interaction with them, as I always did pretty good in that category. I am thinking more about parents and their interaction with their child when it comes to athletic competition.

In my years coaching I have seen just about every type parent there is, from the ones who dropped their kids off and never saw a game or practice but, used sports to babysit, to the parent who thought their child was going to be in the pros tomorrow so they drive them so hard to not make a mistake the child was not having any fun today. I think every parent falls somewhere between these two ends of the spectrum.

My question as we get this fall season started is what type of parent are you? Now don't get me wrong, we would not have the success we have getting kids to and from games and supporting athletics with time and money were it not for parents; they're an invaluable part of the sports puzzle. But when it comes to your child and how you act toward them after a practice or game, what type of parent are you? Most athlete's parents either mimic the type of parent they had or, because of their parent, are the complete opposite. Are you the type of parent to your children that you would want if you were still playing?

As you ponder those questions I am going to challenge you to do two things. First, ask your child or children what type of parent they want you to be? So many parents just decide they are going to be the way they want to be, they never take the time to find out their child's desire. Secondly, and this will be the tough one, I challenge each and every one of you to do this one thing at least one time after your child's next game; simply tell them how awesome you think they are and that you were proud of them. That's it, nothing else. Don't just drop them off and leave; don't become their biggest critic or best coach or their professional agent. Just tell them how you awesome think they are and that you are proud of them and zip it.

Why? Because our young athletes are pretty smart people. If they played bad they likely already know it, without a coach or parent reiterating that fact right after a game. If they played good they deserve to relish that without finding out the 42 things you think they did wrong. They know how they did, good or bad and playing the game all over again in the car on the way home isn't going to change the outcome. But it may change how eager they are to be around each time a game is over with.

If they want your advice or input they will ask for it. If they want your praise they'll seek it. If they desire your feedback you'll know. Until then, what I have found in all these years coaching young people, and in being a parent myself, is what they really want from us parents after a game, or anytime for that matter, is to know how awesome mom and dad think they are, and that they're proud of them. So please, take the challenge and let me know how that works for you? I bet the rides home will be a lot more fun and a lot less stressful when our children only have to play a game one time!

Contact Matt Cole by email at and follow him on Twitter @MacSentinel.