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The Press Box For Aug. 9
August 9, 2017

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I can't think of anything more American or with more appeal and benefit to kids of all ages than high school athletics. It's a special time for everyone and and for the most part an inexpensive source of entertainment.

For the athlete it's an important dimension of their growth and sets values seldom found in a classroom. High school athletics captures it all, the excitement of competition, the thrill of wearing the school uniforms, the admiration of younger kids watching their idols and dreaming of the day it's their turn. Athletics teach a valuable lesson that lasts a lifetime.

You can often see youngsters the next day, imitating the way their high school idol broke a tackle on the way to the end zone or slipped past a defender to kick the soccer ball into the net, or how he gave the extra effort to win the big cross country race.

The impact of high school athletics in our schools, communities and on our youth is pervasive. It is spreading by leaps and bounds.

Coaches, players and fans are very special, especially in high school. They provide many more precious memories than negative ones. Perhaps that's why negative reports often make the headlines. The expected goodness is often overshadowed by the occasional poor sportsmanship, there is a sad irony that the deeds of a few will will ruin the positive efforts of many.

I often talk about bad sportsmanship but I truly believe it is now better than ever and I'm convinced it's better because of our coaches.

High school athletes and coaches are under closer scrutiny today than they have been in previous years, especially by the media. Thirty to forty years ago sportsmanship had a lot less meaning and if the media would have given the same coverage as today, I can assure you negative articles would have appeared more frequent than today.

New laws and athletic associations have taken on a campaign to rid poor sportsmanship from the playing field, it's not over yet but it's being won. Just last year I saw at least three spectator ejections from high school games and many more warnings. Also a few coaches could have been ejected, while many did receive warnings.

However, athletes are practicing better sportsmanship today because coaches have added it as part of their game and practice rules. It has become part of their game plan, they understand the importance of being a role model, not just for their athletes but for their school and community. Coaches understand values and the difference between character building and building character.

Today's coaches are a different breed from years past, times have changed, so you have to change with the times. You have to build trust with your players and coaching staff. A coach has got to be the boss, the one who makes the ultimate decisions, coaches have to have courage and with that courage our athletes derive the best that athletics can offer.

The coaches who model all these values, I like to brag about. Those that don't I would like to see eliminated from working with kids. In sports those who display bad sportsmanship, can ruin it for all and they can never build character in our kids.

I will stay constant in my praise for the great educators who coach and with each game display the character they teach the athletes. Fans can see what the kids have learned beyond X's and O's. The importance of coaches stressing tough competition, citizenship, sportsmanship and life values are subjects we can't quit talking about. The game of life is much more important than the next high school athletic event

Go to any rules clinic or state athletic association meeting and you'll hear about sportsmanship, enforcing rules, building character, respect, right from wrong, and responsibility. Coaches can make a difference in an athletes life, they have to have the courage to do so, no matter how unpopular.

Taking a positive stand is difficult, with the drugs, substance abuse issues and alcohol problems, and kids wanting spending money, which often means getting jobs, our coaches have more problems to address then coaches 30 years ago and ten times more than those from 50 years ago. It's not always popular to for them to take a stance on what they stand for and won't stand for, but when they do they win the respect and admiration of others.

In sports, no matter what, there's going to be a certain amount of arguing and disagreements and sometimes fans are going to yell and have comments you don't want to hear. Sometimes they take things to far, but generally it's all in fun and the coach or A.D.'s take care of it before it escalates.

Great coaches can be a powerful dynamic in the lives of their athletes by how they act in front of their students, how they talk, the way they walk, the manner in which they respond to officials, and most importantly the way they respond to a young athlete who is having a bad day.

A great coach can be disappointed in a performance but not the person. Great coaches can walk out and question an umpire or referee's call but when the official responds "Coach, I didn't see it that way," a great coach will set an example when he returns to his team and say's, the umpire called it the way he saw it. A lessor coach will try to embarrass the umpire, and allow the kids and fans to lose respect for the official.

There is an old saying, "If we make as few mistakes as the officials, we will win the game." I never met an official who wanted to work a bad game, I've never met an athlete who wanted to play poorly, and I never met a coach who wanted to coach a poor game.

But what about winning? Everyone wants to win that is a given in athletics, however a game is a game to be enjoyed for a moment in time, be it the season opener, the conference title, the last game of the season or the state championship. Some coaches are state championship coaches and others are champions in their communities and in the eyes of their kids.

Coaching is one of those professions where your job performance is exposed to public scrutiny and everyone's an expert, and they always seem to have the qualifications to criticize you. What's frustrating though is much of this comes from individuals who don't have a clue about you, or your players, or what your trying to accomplish.

It's almost like your living in social media, where there will be hundreds of comments with very little meaning. In this day and age that's something everyone has to live with and it means very little to some people to totally try and destroy others.

Great coaches will rise above those things and take the task at hand. They'll get the athletes to believe in themselves, they won't embarrass or humiliate them, they will teach life skills and keep the game in perspective.

They won't let their egos and self worth get tied up in their strategies, they understand individual differences in their athletes and coach the person not just the athlete. They are also flexible, and are always looking for better ways to reach each athlete. Great coaches are great communicators who take the time to listen and to educate their athletes and walk the talk with their athletes and parents.

I am positive coaching is not an easy task, it is extremely difficult, but part of the job as a coach is to mentor the athletes to become not only good ball players but good citizens who will go out into the world and make a difference.

We have those kind of coaches and we have good kids, lets let the coaches do their jobs. Most of them are very well trained and know what the skills and abilities of their athletes are. Good Luck to all of our local athletes, coaches, trainers, parents and fans as be begin another season of high school sports. eparsons@tylerstarnews.com.

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