The Press Box For July 22
I don’t know when it all started, but I’m sure of one thing. The three week period in the summer time when coaches and athletes are allowed to get together under the rules of the WVSSAC, have adversely affected the nature of high school sports and particularly destroyed the will of participation in many up and coming athletes.
I am by no means happy to see the events were experiencing today with the COVID-19, but I do believe it shows beyond any doubt that sports should not be forced on school age kids, no matter what sport they excel in or what age bracket they play in.
To back that up, I was watching a high school sophomore kicking a football at the park the other day. He was working on his punting and place kicking. We talked a little bit and he said he never played before but his pap told him if there is a season this year, he could make the team by just leaning how to punt and kick.
We use to do those things back years ago, no one had to coach us in the summer time, we didn’t have scrimmages with other schools and we didn’t formally condition until the season opened. However what we did do was stay in decent physical shape on our own, work on shooting hoops, and organizing pickup games.
There were summer leagues ran by volunteers in nearly every community. Once school was out, the teachers got a break and the kids got a break. Coaches scouted around a little and watched summer activities, but nothing was organized. If you wanted to lift weights the field house was normally open.
This boy I watched the other day was booting them anywhere from 40-50 yards in the air with a nice spiral. His kickoffs were traveling about 50-60 yards, ‘if his markings on the field was right.’ That was the best I’ve seen around for years. While most are working on strength and other skills, this kid has found a job that requires accuracy, distance, and skill. Learning to kick a spiral consistently is almost a lost art from what I’ve seen in the past 10 years or more.
If there is a season this year, I hope the high school coach recognizes this young man. He’ll win some games for you.
I also watched a group of kids training for cross country (on their own the other evening) and it reinforced my view of “we don’t need coaching in the summer time”.
I’m not saying there isn’t some good that comes out of it, and I understand it probably started from some schools having year round supervised competition and then became a rule over time. However, remember it’s summer time and kids don’t need to be on a daily sports routine. They have a lot more to their childhood life than obligations to 8 a.m. workouts, and returning in the heat of the afternoon to fine tune what they did in the morning.
If kids want to play they will prepare themselves and work extra hard during the season to be competitive. The risk is also lower for injuries, when your not forced into training during the off season.
This is an unusual year to say the least. It’s a great time for some kids to take it on their own and spend time at their convenience to improve their overall athletic ability. Whether it’s running, jumping, passing, shooting baskets, kicking, or weight training, they’ll get it done. Always have and always will.
Some of the best athletes I’ve seen in my time, did it mostly on their own. They understood the game they wanted to play and perfected their skill to make it happen. Along with wanting to be outstanding athletes, they also were coach-able kids who respected the knowledge of quality coaching.
Over the last 10-15 years I’ve watched many kids start a sport only to end up quitting. Most of them would tell you they were burnt out or didn’t like the coach. From the time they were five or six years old they had been pushed to play and told what to do. They decided it wasn’t for them and walked away.
Sports has to be something you enjoy, some kids are just naturally more talented than others, but I’ve seen others with less natural ability rise to the occasion through extra work and sheer determination. You never know from one season to the next who is going to step to the forefront and grab a starting position. Those are the kids who get it done on their own without a lot of fanfare or summer camps. And you know what? We’ve all seen a few, and what a delight they are for a coach who quickly recognizes their talent, it’s like they hit the lottery. It doesn’t happen as often anymore, but I imagine if sports happens this year you’ll see some unrecognized faces on the playing surfaces.
I know one boy who will grab some attention as he lofts field goals in from 40 yards out and backs the other team up with a 60 yard punt here and there. Some will say where has he been? The answer to that is in the park! firstname.lastname@example.org