Friday, October 19, 2012

Support our student athletes ... or stay home and shut up

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

As we approach this second to the last weekend of the regular football season for this year, I pause to reflect on what we have seen thus far.

One of the things that I have learned, or maybe re-learned, is that not all fans “get it.” We used to see this only during the games, or maybe at the local coffee shop following the game. “Armchair quarterbacks” are full of what should have been. Win or lose, they have all the answers to a perfect season — the day after the contest.

Some of them sit in the stands during a game. They loudly proclaim to everyone within shouting distance how the play should have been run. They will complain about the officials. They will rail on the coaching staff. Sometimes, you will hear them chastise the performance or talent of a player.

Prior to the start of any Ohio High School Athletic Association contest, a narrative is read to those in attendance. It proclaims, among other things, that this is a contest between kids and that sporting behavior is expected.

I sometimes wonder what part of that can possibly be misunderstood.

Add to that the fact that the action on the field/court is a game. That’s right a game. Don’t get me wrong. I am as competitive as the next person. Many who know me might think that I am too competitive. I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a second place winner.

I believe just as firmly that there is proper behavior expected by both the winner and the loser of a contest. Winners should never gloat. Losers should hold their head up and never display poor sportsmanship.

 It is okay to be sad or angry with losing. Anger should be directed at yourself. It is not the fault of your opponent that you did not win. It is your fault for not being good enough, at least on that particular night, to win.

That should not be taken out on friends, family or your opponent. What should be done is to examine what needs to be done to improve enough to not let it happen again.

This is a lot of pressure to put on college or professional athletes. That same sort of pressure is put onto our high school athletes these days, and unfortunately, also put upon many younger athletes as well. The pressure to win has long overshadowed the need for proper sportsmanship. That is sad.

Parents and fans must be vigilant to set a proper example for their athletes. These are kids. If you are a parent, you most certainly do not want other parents or fans yelling at your kid that he/she is less than proficient at his/her chosen sport. First of all, stuff happens. Sometimes our kids go brain dead for a moment and get beaten. Sometimes they face an opponent that is just flat out a better athlete.

No matter what, parents and fans should be there to support our athletes. Win or lose, these are still our kids.

If an NFL player who is paid a million dollars a season can’t be expected to catch every pass or make a first down each time his number is called, then why do we seem to think that our kids should be able to pull it off? It’s a game. And if every play was a sure thing, all the fun would be gone anyway.

Players and their respective schools and sports need all the support they can get. It is great to see a large turnout for a game. But for those few who seem to think that part of the fun is riding the athletes backsides, just stay home. The same goes for those who lurk on social media sites to second guess our kids.

As a fan or a parent, you need to leave the coaching to the coaches.

And as my mom used to say , “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything.” The longer I live, the better her advice sounds, and in more situations.

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