Each fall, scores of middle and high school youngsters suffer through the disappointment of either being cut from the teams or not receiving the playing time they think they deserve.
Of course, the blame for those maladys usually falls upon well-meaning and grossly underpaid coaches. Some parents and players and I emphasize "some" are quick to point fingers at dedicated coaches.
"The coach doesn't know what he's doing."
"The coach doesn't like my son."
We've all heard the frivolous excuses. More than 99 percent of that malarkey is, well, malarkey.
In 33 years of middle and high school coaching, I came across only a handful of coaches who were either incompetent or harbored personal vendettas. Most every coach is basing his or her decisions about players on evaluations in practices and scrimmages. Coaches most often take into consideration athletic ability, conditioning, attitude and work ethic.
There is something the teens can do to ensure the best shot at being successful when fall sports kick off in a few weeks. They can all but guarantee their improvement by committing to an off-season program of weight training, conditioning and stretching.
Prospective athletes who've spent the summer as couch potatoes watching television and playing video games are going to find it rocky going in pre-season conditioning drills. When athletes fall behind early because of poor conditioning, they usually find it tough to catch up once the regular season begins.
Once preseason practice is underway, an unselfish attitude will do wonders to earn one a slot on the roster and ample playing time later in the season.
Coaches don't want to hear, "What's in it for me?" Rather, they'd liked to be asked, "What can I do for the team?"
It's an echo of former President John F. Kennedy when he said, "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
And, when it comes to parents, most are interested only in the welfare of their child. That's understandable, but a coach has to oversee the well being of the entire team. That makes his or her job much tougher.
Parents have a responsibility to support coaches with all their vigor. When a problem arises, take it to the coach first in a civil session away from the team. Too many Payson High School coaches have chosen to step aside rather than put their families through the indignities of rumors and innuendoes passed about the school and community by ill-informed, belligerent parents.
Athletes can contribute to their own welfare, and the success of the team in several ways. Begin by arriving at practices early and staying late, if needed. Then, encourage teammates, work hard and don't waste time complaining or questioning the wisdom of the coach.