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Sunday, July 19, 2015: High school sports czar for a day

   Leading off today: The New York State Sportswriters Association recently reached out to reporters across the state offering them a chance to be "czar for a day," offering up solutions to issues and other thoughts. This is the first of what we hope will be several contributions leading up to the start of fall sports.

Phil Blackwell, Eagle Newspapers
   Being"High School Sports Czar for a Day" sounds great, tempting, exciting, powerful. Given that kind of clout, it's easy to get drunk on it and offer suggestions on anything and everything which bothers me about the whole enterprise.

   Rules changes? Sure, in a perfect we'd get a longer football season, a later start to winter sports, shot clocks in lacrosse, and a dozen other ideas, but that also creates other problems, which leads to other problems ...

   Have more protection for coaches? Absolutely, for the biggest threat to high school sports, long-term, is a dearth of coaches willing to put up with all that goes with the job. I don't mean teaching the kids and leading them. It's the other stuff -- especially parents that put pressure on administrators to see things their way, even at the expense of order and stability. The more that happens, the more turnover you'll see, and who does that help?

   Yet if I were given the power to rule high school sports (and please, may that day never, ever arrive), instead of using that power in a bossy, annoying manner, I would simply use that platform to convey a message to everyone involved, from players to coaches to parents.

   Enjoy the journey, no matter where it may take you.

   Is that abstract, crazy, naive, ridiculous? Maybe, but in sports, no matter how hard you practice or train, no matter how many hours you sweat and sacrifice, you can never, ever guarantee victory anytime, anywhere.

   A common mistake we make in sports, high school or otherwise, is focusing solely on the end result. That leads to a tendency to single out great moments of decision, victory or defeat, and completely forgetting all that led up to it.

   Any champion will tell you that the satisfaction gained from such an accomplishment is partially due to the work that went before. No one skips ahead to the trophy ceremony, and if they ever did, fairly or otherwise, the good feeling would quickly evaporate because they didn't put in the sweat which a trophy usually requires.

   Of course, in sports, not everyone finishes first. And once we get to high school sports, we're long past the point of participation medals. The vast majority of athletes, by this level, have put in the hard work, and that same vast majority will never experience competition at a higher level, so for them, this is it.

   That's why it's important to not let anything stand in the way of enjoying the journey. That includes specialization, football site

because if a kid likes to play multiple sports, why stop them? If they're good enough, the opportunities to go further will be there. Don't box them in.

   Besides, parents, what good is a scholarship if, by the time they get to college, your son or daughter has burned out in the sport of your choice? Abby Wambach played multiple sports in high school. Peyton Manning didn't play organized football until he was 12. They seemed to turn out well.

   Coaches, having discipline and rules are necessary and important, but there's more to leadership than authority. Knowing when to have fun, and reminding them that it's still a game, can make the difference between your players having wonderful memories of high school sports, or something far more painful.

   When it is all done, either in glorious triumph or (more likely) disappointment that the ultimate goal was not achieved, high school sports is not about the adults, whether coaching from the sidelines, cheering from the stands or writing about their exploits.

   It's about the kids, their stories, their experiences. We must constantly remind ourselves about that basic, indisputable truth. If so, then the journeys that they will take will enrich the rest of their lives, and every one of us will win, too.

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