High school athletics value more evident now that it’s gone

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The ballparks are silent at the moment as scholastic competition has been shut down for the balance of the spring, so far. Often in the absence of an activity, it serves us well to consider the impact and vitality of that activity.

A rough count of the 2019-20 high school athletic rosters reveals about 540 Alba-Golden, Mineola and Quitman roster spots were filled by local athletes this school year. Although that number does not account for those students who played multiple sports, it is still impressive to consider. Throughout the school year, 540 individuals wore the jerseys of the three schools in athletic competition. 

Viewed from this perspective, the importance of athletics in area schools is monumental. With the large number of participants, it is of little wonder why schools invest so heavily in athletic programs.  

The objective is simple: to build productive members of society.

As Drew Webster, athletic director at Alba-Golden school described, “We want our kids to be great husbands, wives, fathers and mothers. We want our kids to be able to handle the highs and lows of life and always be positive, contributing members to the community.” 

Mineola Athletic Director Luke Blackwell added, “The ultimate goal of our athletic program is to teach kids to be successful in life outside of high school.”

The sports available in local high schools are then simply different mechanisms to teach those traits and share in the experiences, which will give youngsters the best possible chances for life success. 

The array of sports is impressive: football, volleyball, cross-country, soccer, basketball, powerlifting, softball, baseball, track, golf and tennis.  Most of the sports feature varsity and junior varsity squads.  

Managing an athletic program creates many requirements. Building a coaching staff, maintaining facilities and equipment, establishing policies, codifying expectations and requirements are just a few of the responsibilities of athletic directors.  It is essential for those leading the program to never forget the reason it all exists.

As Webster stated, “Despite the many hats we wear, we are here for the kids.”  

Blackwell describes creating a culture that allows kids to grow, learn and be successful.

“Surrounding our kids with men and women of high character who consistently exhibit strong positives examples to our kids through their words and actions,” is a mainstay of the Mineola program, related Blackwell. 

There are many paths to success and many characteristics on which to build a program.

For the Panthers of Alba-Golden, the young student-athletes are indoctrinated into the concepts of accountability, character and roles. Young Yellowjacket athletes will become very familiar with the mantra of effort, attitude and toughness. 

Both coaches shared amazing examples of young people who have demonstrated superior qualities of perseverance and humility in the course of their high school athletic careers. Whether it was a promising athlete who fought back twice from major injury to become a symbol of achievement or an athlete who overcame physical impairments to be among the best in the state, the power of athletics is boundless. The impact of their athletes on the two head coaches was obvious and heartfelt.  

“We have chosen this road (as coaches) to impact and influence our kids through athletics,” summarized Webster. He related how athletics provide purpose in young people’s lives and often becomes a very real family to many young people.

Blackwell concurred, remarking, “You never know what single event or series of events may change a kid’s life!”

Often the achievements of local athletes leave spectators in awe. The emotional rollercoaster of high school competition can awaken emotional reactions.

We share in the wins and defeats of our children, and are reminded thereby of our humanity.

For those having grown up in East Texas, high school sports was always a part, a big part, of the natural environment. We likely never considered the passing seasons without it. A pause without the sights and sounds of sports may give us all time to reflect on the impact we have over each other, especially young people, in a trying time.