I am often asked my opinion on things that involve football. The questions range from how to find which player position best suits a child to who I think will win the Super Bowl, and pretty much everything in between. I have many thoughts on the game, on coaching, and on improving performance, so I am starting Passing Thoughts to share some of those thoughts. I welcome your comments and conversation. –KR

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Local Best

Check out media reports on any given day, and you will see that professional athletes live under a magnifying glass in our current culture. Everything they do is watched, scrutinized, reported, and judged. Unfortunately, most of the headlines are negative, and people are very quick to point out every shortcoming and mistake that a pro athlete makes. Whether the scrutiny is fair or unfair, these athletes need to realize that they are always in the spotlight, and kids are always looking up to them.

Athletes may not like the idea of being a 24/7 role model, but when they put on a jersey of a professional team, then they can't escape the media glare and the high expectations of their fans. There have been countless examples of athletes with serious personal issues of late, and plenty of disappointed fans seeking jersey returns and a new role model. These events provide an excellent opportunity to remind kids that they don't have to look very far to find plenty of other tremendous role models for young athletes. 

As the season winds down and teams come together for playoff games, it’s a great time to remember that parents, coaches, and local athletes can be great role models for our kids. All three are leaders that have the attention of our young athletes. Children learn right from wrong, the idea of sportsmanship, and all about the competitive nature in athletics from their parents. Coaches have an impact far beyond the field as they try teach the rules of the game, issues of sportsmanship, and the importance of working within a team.

Roosevelt High School
Local athletes, like pro athletes, are people that our young athletes try to emulate. Watch the end zone areas of any high school game in America, and you will see kids in jerseys cheering on their local best and dreaming that someday they will be in the same position as those Friday night superstars. Each of those people have the ability to be tremendous role models for young athletes, and they can really have an effect on their young fans' lives and love of the sport.

Parents, coaches, and athletes need to remember and model the elements that will help those young fans be better on and off the field. We all hope that our young athletes can observe and learn things like listening, being coachable, being a good teammate, and learning to value team goals and not just personal goals. Parents, coaches, and athletes can help young athletes understand the consequences of skipping practice or losing their cool during a game or practice. We can also help them learn to take pride in their efforts and not just winning. If you are a parent, coach, or athlete who interacts with these young athletes, you are in a unique position to mentor them and help instill these values.

Not sure who some of these local athletes are? I asked some of our local high school coaches to recommend players who model sportsmanship on their teams. These are a few of the athletes who were recommended:

Washington High School
Roosevelt Head Coach Kim Nelson recommended Tyler VanVoorst. Tyler is a junior WR at RHS, and Coach Nelson stated, “He puts his teammates first all the time. He is the first to celebrate other players' good plays and touchdowns. He thanks his teammates when he scores, or has a good play. He will play anywhere we ask him to play and give a great effort. He is also a good student and a very good person in school and in the classroom. He respects everyone and is a great example of a "servant leader."

Harrisburg Head Coach Brandon White recommended Cody Cook. Coach White stated,  "Cody Cook is our role model! The way he treats his teammates is tremendous, and I appreciate the way he coaches up the young guys, on the field and off."  Coaches at the Academy have always been extremely complimentary about having the opportunities to work with Cody. He gives maximum effort in everything that he does, but more importantly is very coachable and respectful.

Washington High School Head Coach Chad Stadem recommended Logan Eckoff. Coach Stadem stated, “Logan is an outstanding student. He is involved in many activities at Washington including football, choir, baseball, etc. He is always at practice and willing to do anything we ask him to do for the team. He treats everyone with respect and is respected by all of his teammates.”

Cody Cook
We are accustomed to recognizing the accomplishments of teams that win championships and athletes who make big plays, but it is just as important to recognize those athletes who are champions off the field and during practice. Congrats to these athletes who are leading by example in their football programs!

It is easy to get caught up in the headlines about professional athletes, but remember that kids value the people around them. If you have the opportunity to interact with young athletes, take advantage of that time to model the qualities of great sportsmanship and help instill positive values. Today’s impressionable young athletes will be tomorrow’s Friday night superstars. Let’s lead them by example to be excellent, on and off the field.

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