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We were always outside back in the day

December 20, 2010

It just had to be easier being a coach back in the day.

Back in the day there were no video games or other stuff to keep a child indoors.

Kids were outside playing and playing and playing.

Whether it was a pickup basketball game, a baseball game where right field was an out or a tag football game that eventually turned into a tackle football game, kids were always outside doing something.

Growing up I lived on the end of a cul-de-sac and the manhole cover was home plate for our baseball games.

We walked about a half-mile to the middle school to play football or basketball.

There was always kick the can, tag (not ninja tag) or some other game that involved running.

We were all due in when the street light came on and almost always convened back outside during the summer after dinner.

We played Pop Warner football, Boys Club basketball or Little League baseball. We ran track for the Boys Club or did something else that kept us on the go.

We rode our bikes to practice.

We were always doing something.

When we got to high school, we played in passing scrimmages, basketball games and baseball games (I ran track, so I competed in all-comers meets.)

The biggest thing that has changed since then is the importance of weightlifting.

Big Red football coach Reno Saccoccia calls it the fourth sport.

Weightlifting, stretching with bands and all this other stuff was nowhere to be found back in the dark ages.

We lifted weights because it was something to do.

We did not lift weights to prevent injuries.

Coaches expected us to be involved.

They didn't want to hear excuses why we missed a passing scrimmage or a basketball game.

If we did, it cost us somehow.

Those who now play three sports are on the go from the August of their freshman year to May of their senior year.

But, they sign up for it, so they must be accountable for their time.

They choose to play.

They choose to be involved.

They choose to work hard.

They choose.

There are too many distractions and too many excuses now.

Yes, excuses.

And, when a coach holds a kid accountable for those excuses, he or she gets called on the carpet.


At no point in a sporting event is conservation of energy a goal.

And, when a coach sees a kid conserve energy, there is a seat on the bench for them because someone else can go in and give it their all.

A coach once told me this very simple statement, "Our job is to push your kids past the point where they think they can go. Our job is to push them to that wall and then through that wall."

The coach said the coaches are there to push kids to a new level, to a level they never thought they had.

He wants every kid to give every ounce of energy for as long as they are on any athletic field.

That should be the same whether a kid is a member of the band, cheerleading squad or debate team.

Kids should study as hard as they play.

Kids should practice as hard as they play.

If a kid cannot practice hard, a coach has no indication they will play hard.

That is something we parents do not see.

We don't see a kid going through the motions during two-a-days.

We don't see a kid going through the motions during finals week until grades come out.

In addition to all of this, way too many parents think their kids are the next big thing.

The next Jordan.

The next Hamm.

The next Halladay.

The next Maya.

The next Manning.

Chances are, they are no more than a really good kid who is going to college to get an education and be a successful member of society, helping the disadvantaged along the way.

And, parents, there is really nothing wrong with that.

Of the 1,025,762 high school football athletes in 2008, 2.7588 percent received some sort of financial aid to play Division I or II football in college.

In boys basketball, 1.3943 percent of 541,130 athletes received financial aid.

In girls basketball, 1.7714 percent of 451,600 athletes received financial aid.

In softball, 2.1580 percent of 365,008 athletes received financial aid.

Those numbers mean adults need to start getting a clue about sports.

Athletics is a great way for kids to learn and grow.

It's a great way for them to learn how to work hard and be a member of a team.

It's a great way for the 12th player on a basketball team learn how to become the first player off the bench.

It's a great way for athletes to learn hard work doesn't kill them and how to find a new level within themselves.

Some kids cannot get out of second gear.

Athletes teaches them a fifth gear can be attained, but not without hard work.

How hard are kids willing to work?

Kids are willing to work really hard as long as adults understand the situation.

So, school board members, what do these numbers tell you?

They tell you that about 97 percent of all high school students will not play sports in college, and intramurals do not count.

They should also tell all school board members that, although winning and losing on Friday nights is a big deal during that season, there are other things to consider.

It also tells you that you should never call a high school football coach in to discuss anything about the program unless some kids are discipline problems. And, even at that, your discussion with the head football coach is a last-ditch effort to solve a problem.

I know some school board members really want to get their hands dirty with athletic programs, but, believe it or not, that is not your job.

You see, if you call in the football coach to discuss the direction of the program, you must also call in the swim coach, the golf coach, the hockey coach, the track coach and every other coach you have in the program.

Once that is done, you must then call in the math, English and history department heads, along with all the others, to discuss the direction of those programs.

Once that is done, you must then call in every teacher to discuss the direction of the classroom and what is being taught.

You see, if that is not done, you have a form of discrimination on your hands and it will clearly show you care more about the football or baseball or basketball programs than you do of the remainder of the kids who make up the district.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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