As you know by now, I have a very opinionated stance on life, sport and where the two intersect… hence my mantra: “Sport is Life.” What I’ve failed to realize, while compressed in my own narrow-minded view of sport is how different things are and how much sport as I used to know it has changed. I suppose I’m somewhat of a dinosaur in my “Ole’ Ball Coach” approach… a hopeless sport romantic who longs for the good ole’ days.
There used to be a time when being a part of the “team” meant something more than just a potential collegiate offer…when individual stats didn’t matter as long as the team got the win…when there was actually pride in one high school - not transferring to three in four years… when parents and coaches were on the same page and more concerned about the character and behavior of young people; not their playing time and “touches”…when schools and school districts were more concerned about what student-athletes were going to learn through their sport experiences than playing politician (saying all the right things and doing absolutely nothing)… when someone called you “bro” it actually meant they thought of you as family… when you worked out and ran on your own because you knew it would benefit the team - not because mom and dad got you a personal trainer… when you refused to quit – even though you were tired, sore and felt like you were going to die… when it was ok to have just a football pep rally before the big game because everyone was a part of the fun… there used to be that time….remember?
Now-a-days creating a championship culture in high school sport would seem to be just as taxing (if not more so because of parental involvement) than collegiate or professional championships. As I took a minute to step back and objectively look at the big sport picture a few “inevitable truths” caught my attention:
INEVITABLE TRUTHS OF HIGH SCHOOL SPORT
1. High school coaches have to game plan in order to give players a chance to be successful (and usually teach or work elsewhere because they don’t get the luxury of big collegiate and professional contracts).
2. High school coaches are expected to win… regardless of the situation (winning has become paramount… not the athletes’ experience).
3. High school coaches deal with untimely injuries (especially in public schools… there’s no ability to legally recruit players so one injury can be devastating to a team’s depth chart, roster or season).
4. Not all high school staff personnel get along (Duh… that’s just a given).
5. High school coaches work with young people who have character issues (unlike the collegiate and professional ranks it may not be a social media circus that requires politics or mass conciliation… it’s truly about helping someone become a better version of themselves).
Wait; wait… before you get all sideways about the aforementioned understand that I’m not minimizing the hard work and dedication that’s required of my collegiate and professional colleagues. All I’m saying is; the same pervasive attitudes that are seen on Saturdays and Sundays both on and off the field are the same attitudes we see in high school on Monday thru Friday.
Hmmmmm… Does the word entitled ring a bell anyone??
Yeah… figured it would. Lemme ‘splain -
We live in a world of instant gratification… if something’s not done right (or at least the way we think it should be) we take it back and get a new one… or if we make (in our best estimation) the wrong decision we just close ranks and move on. We have instant coffee, instant grits, instant tea, instant access, instant rice… hell we even have Instagram!
However, the one thing that will never be categorized under instant gratification is sport. The will to work, sacrifice and give selflessly are all critical ingredients in the “success formula” that sport teaches. The ole’ ball coach relies on these very principles and counts on them to be steadfast.
But here’s some food for thought along those same lines ---> Think about this one…
Think back to when we used to remember phone numbers? All of the them: home, mom’s work, dad’s work, school, church, best friend’s house, other best friend’s house, grandma’s house, aunt’s house, uncle’s house and a couple of your really cool distant cousins’ houses. There was no cell phone contact list to scroll down (well maybe that one ratty piece of paper or note pad that was by the house phone). Now there’s technology and all kinds of storage devices that don’t require us to use that skill set any longer. What happened? Simply put… we forgot how to remember! Yep… we forgot how to remember... just think about the last time you misplaced your cell phone for 10 minutes.
Along those same lines are the omnipotent changes in sport that involve technology, social media and the almighty dollar. There is no discretion, there is no privacy and quite frankly I believe those three things perpetuate a specific lure… a certain draw that makes it much more attractive to call attention to an individual instead of seeking strength in the proverbial numbers.
If selflessness and teamwork aren’t taught through sport where on earth will our young people get it? Everywhere they turn society screams, “Me, Me, Me!” “Get yours and worry about everything else later.” “What team? I AM the team!” Character development isn’t being taught… but physical training is out of this world. Don’t you find it odd that we all say sport is “90% mental and 10% physical…” yet we spend 90% of our time working to perfect that 10%? At what point do we tip the scale?
Let me close by saying I love technology AND social media… you’ll find me any given Saturday or Sunday afternoon Tweeting away and watching any number of “big” games while at the same time enjoying some group texts with some former Notre Dame teammates of mine, sending and receiving a couple of e-mails, and occasionally writing a short jargon-filled blog. In short, I’m just like you… with one small exception.
Although technological advancements are everywhere, apps are being consistently updated, rules incessantly changing and even perspectives occasionally changing; I will never compromise the importance of sport in lieu of how a few conveniences have impacted an already entitled society.