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David Pressgrove: Still cutting it

Just by chance, I was at the Moffat County High School volleyball practice this week when the girls found out who made the team.

The lists were taped on the wall and after the girls read them, the tears and hugs made the outcome fairly obvious to an accidental observer.

The episode made me think about cuts.

Making the cut has never really been something I’ve thought about.

My high school was small enough that coaches were begging kids to play sports. I can remember one year a senior was actually cut in basketball but that was because, well, frankly, he couldn’t help the team even if he was Yao Ming’s height.

Before I give my thoughts on cuts, I want to make one thing clear. If coaches need to cut, then that’s their prerogative. In volleyball or basketball, when only five people can play at a time, it doesn’t make sense to have a bench of 15 players.

But it’s hard for me to justify most cuts in high school sports. That’s because I believe the statistics that the Colorado High School Activities Association touts every year. Those numbers show that interscholastic activities boost a child’s grades and enthusiasm for life in general.

I’m not saying that sports are everything, but the numbers are clear that during adolescence, after-school activities lead to positive outcomes.

When an athlete gets cut as a freshman, I would bet it’s rare for them to try out again. That means, for the rest of their high school years, they’re either doing nothing after school or working. Because most freshmen aren’t old enough to work, Option A is probably their answer. Idleness leads to no good.

I’ll give you one example from my life when not having an activity after school led to mischief.

My freshman year in high school, we always had morning practice for basketball. That left us the afternoons free. My friend was just old enough to drive, and a lot of those afternoons we would take his mother’s car to visit his girlfriend in another town.

I have two main memories from those times: Sitting there bored as could be while he and his girlfriend played kissy-face and getting in at least three high-speed car chases because one of us had upset another driver with some obscene gesture.

One time, we almost drove off a bridge. I would have much rather been playing basketball.

I have no solutions for the coaches making cuts. From what I see, it’s unfortunate but necessary.

What I can do is offer some solutions for those cut.

First, being cut for one year doesn’t mean your chances are over. Remember that the most recognizable sports icon in the world, Michael Jordan, was cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore. Odds are you aren’t the next MJ, but the point is that it’s not automatically over for you in that sport.

If you still want to try to make the team next year, spend this fall getting better. You also could work on upcoming sports in the winter and spring.

Another option is that there are additional fall opportunities out there.

If you were too small for football, try cross country. If volleyball wasn’t your specialty, maybe you can dance or cheer with the best of them.

How about your musical or acting abilities? The band and drama groups are always looking for a few good boys and girls.

If none of those things seem like you, then you could volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club or Craig or Recreational Afterschool Doorway (RAD). Craig Parks and Recreation is always in need of coaches and referees.

Not making a team could be a defining moment in your life. It could be a time when you look back when you’re my age and say, “If I’d … “

My hope is that 10 years down the road, you finish that sentence with something like “… made the team, I probably wouldn’t have realized my ability as an actress” instead of “… made the team then I could be doing something with my life today.”