Sports is more than winning
Some could argue that there is never an off-season for an athlete. At least not today. To be successful at the professional level athletes are working up a sweat year-round. It has not always been that way. There was a time when sports was just a part-time job. There was a time when they held other jobs, when leaving the sport to serve in the military would be the norm.
In a world where professional athletics is a big business it means that the players must begin at a much earlier age to begin working at achieving their lofty goals. But the statistics prove that the percentage of student-athletes who make it to prime time is minuscule. Most kids playing sports do so for the fun of it, the thrill of victory, to be in shape, to challenge themselves.
Perhaps it is time we look at what we are asking our kids to do. We have heard of the crazed parents abusing each other because of something happening at their child’s sporting event. Sports have lost their innocence. Winning seems to have become everything. And to get there we are asking our kids to be year-round athletes. We have found this necessary so they can win. Winning, without question, is more fun than losing. But at what cost?
Is it wrong for coaches to be asking high school students to be working out in the off-season? Not if it means they will be prepared to compete when the season begins. It makes sense to have athletes who are in shape be on the playing field instead of ones who are vomiting because of heat exhaustion, as was the case with more than a handful of South Tahoe High School football players on Thursday. There is no way of knowing if they had been working out for the past eight months that they would have been fine on the gridiron, nor is it guaranteed that all those who were in former coach Eric Beavers’ off-season program will not be ill at practice.
There are hard and fast rules about what coaches can ask of their athletes in the off-season. The league has a printed manual stating, “A pupil must not be compelled to participate in preseason or post-season programs. A pupil must be permitted to choose his activities without the compulsion of a coach.”
With that spelled out, Beavers’ mandate to his players to work out in the off-season or be cut from the team violates the rule book. Sitting the kids on the bench would have accomplished the same thing. But Beavers chose to stick by his ideals, to what he said from the get-go: No practice in the off-season means not being on the team come August. No one can find fault with a person who sticks by his ideals and wants to uphold his word.
Conditioning is critical. But so is homework, so is hanging out with friends, so is playing other sports, participating in other extracurricular activities, so is a job. We need to look at what we are asking our kids to do to see if it is reasonable. And then we need to play by the rules.
There are rules for a reason. And they are in place to protect our children. There are enough pressures on them already, with more being added every year. We all want our kids to be the best, to win, to go on to achieve things beyond even what they can imagine. We need to remember they are still children. As adults we need to do right by them.
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