Craig The world of high school sports is set uniquely between learning the game and playing it like a job.
When we first start out in athletics, it’s often because our parents think it will be good for us and a good way to meet other young guns who are learning how to throw, kick or shoot a ball. For the especially talented few, good enough to compete in college or professionally, sports take on a whole new meaning, where money is involved through scholarships or contracts, which obligate the athletes to fulfill certain duties.
While in high school, the competition has ramped up well beyond the point of learning and making friends, but it doesn’t involve the monetary obligations of the next level. Still, high school athletes usually are committed to their sports in the same way the pros are. They are consumed by conditioning, then practices, then a desire to win.
But in sports, success comes from more than one kind of commitment. There is the commitment to working hard and putting in the proper amount of preparation, and then there is commitment to the team as a whole.
On Thursday night, I had the honor of being invited to check out the high school football team’s Commitment Night.
It’s a new tradition for the Bulldogs. They gather after their second practice of the day, eat dinner as a team, then talk.
As its name might indicate, Commitment Night is about coaches and players speaking about their commitments to the team — their family for the next few months — for the upcoming season.
I didn’t stick around for the entirety of Commitment Night because that’s the type of setting where people should be comfortable, and having the newspaper reporter staring at you while you’re speaking, even if he’s not recording or taking notes, is not the best way to feel comfortable.
I stayed to listen to the coaches and some upperclassmen speak, and it’s a good thing I left afterward because I was so pumped up I almost strapped on a helmet and went to tackle someone. Not only would that have been embarrassing, but I probably would have hurt myself.
Coaches speak to teams all the time and usually are capable of saying something meaningful when necessary. But what especially impressed me were the players on this year’s team. None of these boys have been stars on the team in past years, and some haven’t really seen the field during varsity games so far, but they all stepped up Thursday night.
I listened to young men talk about leadership, even though it was a position they haven’t found themselves in until this year. I heard them talk about their own faults as players and teammates and pledge to work on them.
One player spoke about his usual habit of keeping quiet and going it alone, especially once practices or games are over. But he admitted that’s not an option if he wants success this year, and he committed to making more friends on the team and being more vocal.
Isn’t this what sports, especially at the high school level, are all about? Creating memories, dealing with adversity, making friends, having fun and growing up.
The Moffat County High School football team will play a lot of young, inexperienced guys this season, and at times, it may struggle. But man, what a group worth being proud of no matter what, based on what I saw Thursday night.
Nate Waggenspack still is ready to tackle somebody and can be reached at 970-875-1795 or nwaggenspack@CraigDailyPress.com