What price does glory hold?

By Rick Harris
STAR Staff
It's Friday night and the familiar strains of high school bands fill the air as young gladiators prepare to do battle on the football field. Crowds cheer as the teams take the field and kickoff time approaches.
The receiving team takes the kickoff and races 70 yards for the touchdown, causing its coaching staff to jump up and down in glee. On the opposite sideline a different scene takes place, a young player walks head down to the bench to the sound of a coach cussing and berating him for a missed tackle.
His teammates move away lest, the coaches ire spills over to them. This is the way of today's sports, from the professional ranks down to the youngest players. Parents, coaches and fans expect their teams to be perfect, and they just can't tolerate anything less.
We tend to think of high school students as young adults preparing to enter society and as such, being able to take a certain amount of criticism and discipline, but what about the younger kids who don't have the ability to understand why the coach is red faced and spitting at them.
Where do we draw the line? How many future hall of fame athletes will never play the game because some over zealous coach destroyed their self confidence when they were just starting out?
Football by its very nature is a violent game and emotions often run high, but it is not only in football that this trend takes place. You can find it anywhere kids play sports. On a little league baseball field a son won't even talk to his father because the father has been berating him for his play.
You can see in his eyes that the game holds no fun for him. He constantly gives nervous glances over at the stands and breaks down in tears when he misses a ground ball that a big leaguer would have had trouble with. In the stands dad is screaming at the youngster to move faster. It's amazing the young man doesn't have ulcers. After the game the parents are telling their children that they lost because the umpire was unfair. Now, that teaches the kids sportsmanship.
At a youth league football game where the players are so young that they can barely run without tripping over their own feet, a coach grabs a child by the facemask and violently shakes the players head as he screams at him. In 36 states this would be considered criminal abuse but the parents accept this as part of the game as they watch from their lawn chairs.
The same parents would go to war with a teacher for wanting to spank junior for misbehaving. The young player is obviously terrified and just as obviously he does not quite understand what he did wrong. As the game progresses it becomes clear that the only thing that this coach is teaching his players is that they couldn't play their way out of a paper bag. At a time when they could learn so much and gain confidence for the way ahead, they instead learn fear of the game.
We seem to have lost sight of such virtues as sportsmanship and respect for fair play. Parents seem to forget that each child has different strengths and weaknesses.
They may not be as good as their siblings or as good as their parents want them to be. It is time to step back and see the good in our children and praise them for it. Junior may have missed the pass but did he give it his all? Let him know that he made a mistake but temper the criticism with suggestions on how to improve next time.
Don't blame the officials for the players shortcomings. Very rarely does an officials mistake cost anyone a game. But when that happens, acknowledge it and remember that they are people too and not perfect beings who don't make mistakes.
There will always be high emotions in sports and coaches have to instill discipline in their teams, but let us not forget as coaches and parents that our primary responsibility is to teach and prepare our children for life.
Too many of today's kids have little respect for any type of authority. The news is filled with the rising rate of teen suicides and violent crimes. Parents and leaders blame video games, television and even song lyrics for instilling violent or destructive behavior in most of these cases but all one has to do is stand in line in a supermarket or restaurant and watch a three year old repeat the curse word that he just heard daddy use or watch a mother not correct her child as he throws a tantrum because he can't have that candy bar.
So the next time you get caught up in the action remember to stop and think about what you say because you will one day realize just as the lyrics of the seventies song "Cat's in the Cradle" state, "He's grown up just like me. My boy's just like me." Teach your children well and let us never forget that they are only children.