Prep Squads Can Rediscover the Missing Link in Sports 

It’s a common practice for teams to set performance goals heading into their season.  Total wins, conference wins, conference championship, rivalry and key game outcomes, advancing to state playoffs – these are all objectives teams might aspire to reach in pre-season preparations.  But, something is missing from that formula.  Moreover, it’s time that this missing link is acknowledged and permanently included in the way teams view themselves and operate through a season. 

This is a serious call for high school teams in all sports to create tough, clear character guidelines – that is, establish rules and expectations for how teams, and their individual members, will conduct themselves on campus, during practice as well as competition, and in the community, along with tough penalties and real consequences.   

There is a dearth of news each year revolving around behavioral problems by student-athletes, and high school teams are not exempt.  Too often we hear about jprep players who test and then break the rules.  Alcohol, drugs, fighting, bullying, disrespecting authority – these are all problems which have at one time or another plagued athletic programs.  It’s time to set tougher limits and it’s time the kids themselves took responsibility for setting those limits and committing to living by them.

Newspapers, Internet sites and blogs are filled ad nausea with announcements and complaints about abuses perpetrated by professional and college star players and their lackies.  The boorish behavior by professional athletes in particular is disturbingly influential on how high school student-athletes look at themselves and choose to act.  But, the way parents and our communities allow athletes to skate by as if entitled to a separate, less strict set of standards, is also to blame.

At NSR, we encourage communities, parents and fans to be less lenient and more tough-minded with top-tier athletes regardless of their ages.  Developing clones of Terrell Owens, Jeremy Shockey, Ron Artest or Rasheed Wallace is nothing to be proud of.  Aspire to mold youngsters after community leaders and legitimate national heroes, not attention-dependent ne’er-do-wells.            

Let’s challenge teams, coaches and players to be proactive.  Let’s press them to lay it on the line.  Say to these teams, Tell us how we can expect you to act in at school, in public and around other kids as well as adults; tell us your character objectives; give us something to measure you by; provide us with something to be proud of as parents, teachers, administrators and fans; and, show us that you are serious by making self-imposed penalties meaningful and consistent for everyone. 

We know you play hard each week.  We know that you put in long hours at practice each day.  You deserve to be honored for your commitment to the sport.  But, what we don’t know is how you will behave as people and citizens in our communities.  We want you to put yourselves out there on a limb.   Earn your place.  Don’t merely assume that it is yours for the taking.  We want you to strive for greatness beyond the field, the court or the track.  We want you to become the best of us and to demonstrate it day after day, week after week. 

Sadly, athletes have lost their luster in recent years.  Fewer of us are optimistic about their character and their future.  More of us are cynical, expecting them fail, to fall short of our hopes.  But, it doesn’t have to be that way.  There is a right way to do things.  We want you to choose well and to reflect a brighter future for yourselves and for the kids which emulate you.

Intestinal fortitude is what it takes – courage under fire.  Sit down together, eye to eye.  Commit to the things which will make every one of you think before you act and then do the right thing.  Create tough consequences for those who fail to accept and reach those goals.  Hold one another fully accountable, regardless of how many tackles they’ve made, races won, bases stolen or points scored.  Require high standards of one another every day.  Do this.  Do it for us, but more than anything, do it for yourselves.


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