By Mike Ullery
The "dog days" of summer are here. As difficult as it is to believe,
we are just a few short weeks away from the start of another school
Already hard at work are many area student athletes. Many have been
working all summer but schools began their first official practices
during this past week.
Many of us have already seen, and read, about the obvious. Football
players from around the area have donned their pads and are ready for
some honest contact to augment the sweat.
What many of us don't realize, or at least acknowledge, is that while
football is undoubtedly king, there are hundreds of other kids out
there working every bit as hard to get ready for their chosen sport.
Soccer players of all ages are working their tails off under the hot
August sun to ready themselves for their own fall campaign. The Piqua
boys soccer team has already seen a measure of success this season by
winning a tournament in Urbana last weekend.
Possible some of the most overlooked athletes working to perfect
their skills as the fall season approaches are our school cheerleaders.
Like most people, I have pretty much always seen cheerleaders as a
fun group who cheer for the "real" athletes during a game. I saw them
largely as a social group.
Over the past year or so, I have become acquainted with a number of
our local cheerleaders and their parents. This has really opened my
eyes. Possibly it has always been this way. Possibly it is because
cheerleading has been rapidly evolving, maybe faster than other sports.
From my perspective, cheerleading has all but ceased as a rah-rah-stand-on-the-sideline group of young ladies.
I now see our cheerleading squad as a group of dedicated young
athletes. Yes, athletes. The moves and the athleticism necessary to
accomplish some of the cheer routines are extremely difficult.
I have also seen the pain and injuries that these young ladies suffer
... and fight their way through, as they continue to practice with all
of the same grit and determination as their football counterparts.
The tumbling routines which are becoming a staple to most cheer squads add even greater physical demands.
The same can be said of our marching band members. It may seem like
something that is not terribly difficult to anyone who has not tried,
but the skill and concentration necessary to march a routine on a
football field, stay in step, in line, (in multiple directions
simultaneously,) hitting your exact marks on the field even though you
cannot look down to see, while at the same time playing a musical
arrangement that is, by itself, difficult if you were sitting in a
chair, is a daunting task.
These young musicians put in just as many hours in the hot sun as any
other athlete. For a number of weeks during the football season, they
will march their show for fans on Friday night, get home after midnight,
only to pack up and leave early on Saturday morning in order to compete
in a marching band competition.
Many of these youngsters have the same goals as their fellow athletes
- to become good enough at their chosen sport to secure a college scholarship.
Hard work and dedication to a sport that one is passionate about does
not stop with football, basketball or soccer players. It includes all
athletes in all sports.
Maybe an old fogey like me really does learn new things, or at least just learns to appreciate the hard work that is going on in front of my eyes.
As we approach the start of a new season of fall sports, I encourage
everyone to support our student athletes, every one of them,
in every sport. Think back to how much it meant to you, when you were
in school, to have not only your parents in the stands, but members of
the community cheering for your team.