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The Press Box For July 8

By Staff | Jul 8, 2020

State high school sports organizations and administrators have never had to work so hard or make tougher decisions. Will we have fall sports?

After the state basketball championships were cancelled and the spring season basically wiped away due to the coronavirus pandemic, the focus of summer conditioning, the fall and the entire 2020-21 sports campaign has been addressed full throttle.

Even those committed to getting summer practices and the fall season started on time, all have warned that this is an extremely rare and fluid condition. Mandates, plans and guidelines can and have already quickly changed.

Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic; summer sports as we’ve grown to know them do not exist this year. There are a few things going on, but regular high school team play and competition is hard to find. A few teams are playing baseball, however the regular high school coaches are not on the sidelines and many of the kids have opted out of participating.

Many of the local schools find it hard to have enough kids on the field or court. You see this didn’t use to be a problem. I still believe if the kids in school would all get involved in some extra curricular activity, it would carry over and we could get back to having plenty of athletes. Kids in our schools need to be involved in every sport they can play in. It keeps them well conditioned and makes them better athletes. Coaches need to encourage their teams to participate in all sports. I have found it difficult for coaches to get kids to play when some coaches are pushing them to specialize in just one sport.

Playing more than one sport seemed to work well in the past. When I think of some of the great athletes who have gone through are schools, it seems the best ones were those who played multiple sports. However, with pay to play sports (club ball) taking the spotlight, many of our best athletes have committed to one sport, which sure has hurt the smaller high schools.

I would like to see it get back to where athletes are more committed to their hometown school than their traveling teams. We need more athletes at the local level, and the best way to get them to play is through encouragement. Good Coaching and working well with all kids will help that happen.

I was talking to a father the other day whose daughter is the tallest fourth grader in her class. I asked him if she was a basketball or volleyball player, and he said he believes she is just tall for her age now, but ultimately she will be just average height, he added she played basketball last year, but she didn’t shoot or score because the coach had told her that her job was to rebound and play defense.

Since she was only allowed to rebound and give the ball to shorter-ball handler players on her team, he said she lost interest in the game. He was upset because he knew with that kind of coaching she would never develop the skills she needs to play basketball. This is what causes many children to drop out and quit. It cuts at the very essence of what sports is supposed to be about, but this is not just a basketball problem. It is a youth sports problem. It exists in every team sport.

We have turned our attention away from developing excellence in our athletes, and now only focus on immediate success. These coaches love to say, “we are developing winners,” but they are not. They are not giving their players the tools to compete and win later at higher levels of sport. That 4th grade basketball player I mentioned above is not learning to dribble or shoot, two essential skills for any basketball player, especially one who won’t crack the six foot barrier! And why, “because her job is to rebound and play defense”.

I am competitive. I love winning. And I believe that every time an athlete takes the field, he or she should give their maximum effort in the pursuit of victory.

You see, teaching a tall 10 year old to dribble and play guard will likely lose you a few basketball games, but it will make that 10 year old a better basketball player. Teaching your young players to be creative, will cost you some games, but it will make them much better players which really matters. And letting everyone pitch in Little League, as well as limiting pitch counts and actually practicing instead of simply playing games, will develop better baseball players, but not win (you) all the games.

The sad part is, it carries over to high school, many kids no longer enjoy or want to be a part of sports, because they were not treated fairly in the youth leagues. I’ve watched it for years, a kid with a lot of talent loses interest because he or she made a mistake and was pulled from the game. Or they never got any playing time because winning came first, and the best players never came out of the game.

For those of you who are doing it right, developing athletes and teaching them about sports and life, keep doing what you are doing. I know how hard it is to be a coach, mentor and trusted ally of your athletes these days, but we need you more than ever. Don’t give up!

For those of you who are in it simply for the paycheck and/or your ego, and go around trophy hunting and using kids to serve yourself, ask yourself this simple question posed to me by a legendary basketball coach I know. “How can you be disloyal to a sport that is giving you lifetime memories?” You drive kids out of a game you claim to love, and you give a bad name to a vocation that you have turned into a profession. Please change, or please find something else to do, but don’t coach.

Now, back to the original intent of this column, will there be fall sports? I certainly hope so, and I think there could be, but in reality I believe the chances are slim to none. It could happen, but from what I’ve been observing locally, I seriously doubt it, and I blame those who won’t follow the rules that were put into place to allow summer sports to start back up.

If the game I observed from my car at a local little league ball park last week is any indication, there will be no one to blame but ourselves. Absolutely no masks or social distancing did I observe, with many adult fans in attendance and sitting together. I think that is a shame, we want to have fall sports, we want the kids back in the classroom, we want things to go back to normal, but we’re not willing to sacrifice a little to allow it to happen.

With the regular start of high school football season just a little over three weeks away, it’s going to be hard to justify putting kids on the field together. Wetzel and Tyler County has seem a rise in COVID-19 cases, mainly because many refuse to take this serious. As has been spoken “we reap what we sow.” eparsons@tylerstarnews.com