I found myself going back over this column I wrote last September. A year later, it’s still very fitting for what we are all about to embark on this Friday when the high school football season kicks off. I also was struck at the continuing problems athletic teams are facing just one year later that I covered at the bottom. I find it interesting enough, that I’m going to rerun it with some additions.
Strike up the marching band, grease the pigskin and get your tickets now — high school football is in full swing.
Nothing brings a community together faster than the start of the annual gridiron clashes as witnessed by the local business windows once again championing their favorite teams. Gone are the back to school signs, and in their place, colorful dragons, bulldogs, broncos and mustangs, with big cats and hawks and eagles sharing space.
It’s still very interesting to point out, as one parent noted last season at a practice scrimmage, that a certain percentage of fans are not even interested in the game, but rather in the halftime festivities that center around the marching band, cheerleading and pom pon squads. An equal number of folks will thumb their noses at that notion, but it’s quite true. Some marching bands actually outnumber the football teams and rival many in the state with their uniforms, musical prowess and mere size. Most in our coverage areas are not that large, but it is notable that many have made trips to participate in college bowl games and parades, earning high accolades and coveted trophies in the end. Take a bow, musical squads, your hard work definitely does not go unnoticed by your fans.
However, getting back to the main draw that is the game, what better way to spend a Friday night— unless it’s pouring rain— than cheering on your local team under the big lights. For many, this is a first-time ritual that has more meaning as their kids are now on the coveted varsity roster. The stakes are bigger, so too the mistakes, and magnificent plays.
As we all sit here contemplating the
opponents for this Friday’s clashes, take it easy on the kids. Some of these games are not going to go their way as they face defending league, district and state champs from last season. It all looks good on paper as they run through the plays in practice. But, when the lights come on, the fog starts drifting across the field, and a drum line beats its steady cadence, ultimately a whole lot rests on some pretty young shoulders and their ability to
withstand the pressure. Let them play, support their efforts
and strike up the band!
This was the other part of the column and unfortunately, things have not changed much in a year. Lack of interest in playing high school sports continues to set teams on a slippery slope, and as the budget ax falls, programs are in jeopardy. Schools are once again cancelling their golf, cross country and some soccer programs because they couldn’t find enough kids interested to play. And, anyone familiar with Lapeer Community Schools knows all too well what its new minimum player requirements are doing to those programs. Schools that don’t offer football can’t find the minimum number of kids to run cross country, play soccer, or tennis.
This is disturbing on more than one front as there are plenty of sports choices in any given season. It just doesn’t make any sense. Or does it?
I’ve had some interesting conversations with several coaches over the past couple weeks and they are frustrated out of their minds. Kids quitting the team the week the official season begins stating they can’t handle the pressure. Pressure? It’s high school sports, which is supposed to be fun. Other coaches and parents said it’s just plain lazy kids, who just can’t cope with having to turn their cell phones and ipods off for several hours to concentrate on their given sport.
This is something that has to continue to stay on area athletic program budgets and discussions at the dinner table. Kids should be champing at the bit to be part of team, not putting in earbuds and shutting the rest of the world out.