As we approach the last full week of July, I’ve come to terms with the end of high school and legion baseball. To me, there’s no better sport on this planet than baseball. While I know there’s still several months left to watch the Cincinnati Reds continue to struggle through the 2016 MLB season, amateur baseball, whether a high school game, legion game, or a collegiate game just seems to have a feel to it which is absent on the professional level.
That being said, the conclusion of local baseball does bring about one big positive, the emergence of the fall sports season. Acting like a sports version of Punxsutawney Phil, the end of the local baseball season ushers in the greatness of fall sports, the Friday Night Lights, the marathon-like endurance of both boys and girls soccer, as well as cross country runners, the self-sacrifice of volleyball and the finesse of golf.
Fall is the most active of all the sports seasons in high school sports. During the 2013-14 school year, nearly 6,500 boys in the United States took up football or soccer for the first time, according to reports from the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS), the governing body of all 50 state high school athletic associations, including the District of Columbia. For girls, volleyball was the big winner, as over 9,400 girls tried high school volleyball for the first time.
While these numbers are on a national level, I, as a parent, am glad to see such an increase in sports participation in a time where we often hear complaints about our children not being interested in going outside, or not participating in organized sports.
I recently had an opportunity to talk with James Gifford, Sciotoville East football coach. During our discussion, he pointed out the increase in numbers he has seen.
“We went from, two years ago, 26 kids on the roster,” Gifford said. “Now, this year, we’re up to 45.”
In two years, East’s roster has almost doubled, while enrollment numbers have largely remained the same.
As a community, we need to embrace these young student-athletes and support their endeavors – the new ones coming out for their first time – as well as those playing again. We need to support them and encourage them like we do with their academic studies.
We also need to do the same for our coaches, on all levels of play. Most of them see nothing as far as a financial reward for coaching our children. We need to encourage them and praise them during their triumphs and maintain that support during failures.
With about a month to go before stadium lights are flipped on and thousands flock to football fields and gymnasiums, let us all make it a point to go out and support our student-athletes as a new school year and sports season begins.
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.