Editorial: Cheer on our high school athletes, but keep prep sports in perspective
The Friday night lights will illuminate Dozier Field once again when the Park City High School football team kicks off for the first time at home this season against Logan, capping the first week of school and marking the unofficial return of prep sports in Summit County.
It will be a joyous occasion for the community’s sports enthusiasts. Along with football, the start of the school year ushers in the season for volleyball, cross-country, girls soccer, girls tennis and boys golf teams. There will be plenty of reason to root, regardless of whether your allegiances are with the Miners, the North Summit Braves or the Wildcats of South Summit.
Before fans pull on sweatshirts emblazoned with their school’s logo and pack the stands, however, an important reminder is in order: Prep sports are just that — games played by high school students. It’s important to keep them in perspective.
Poor sportsmanship in youth and high school competition has become a major problem across the country. For people who follow sports, it’s impossible to go a few weeks without reading about an incident involving unruly parents or fans — or athletes — somewhere in the country. While the situation has not reached the same fever pitch in Summit County, anyone who regularly attends games knows the sight of a parent berating a referee or coach or sternly talking to their child after a poor performance is far from unusual.
Though such behavior is common, it remains unacceptable.
Referees, in particular, often bear the brunt of the anger. What’s easy to forget, though, is that they are not professionals. The truth is high school officials are paid a paltry sum, sometimes barely enough to cover gas to get to the venue and a post-game meal. Like the fans and student-athletes, it’s a love of the game that brings them to the field.
No, they’re not perfect. But they are doing their best. Don’t forget that the next time an official misses a crucial call late in the game.
The athletes, themselves, also deserve some slack. There’s nothing wrong with fostering a competitive atmosphere. Contrary to the popular saying, it does matter who wins and who loses, and we should expect our student-athletes to play as hard as they can to help their teams come out on top.
But they’re still just kids. Only a handful will play in college. Even fewer have a realistic chance to pursue their sport as a career. None, at this point in their lives, should be defined by what they do on the field.
More important than whether they miss a clutch free throw or cough up a fumble deep in the opponent’s territory is that they’re developing camraderie with their peers and soaking in the valuable lessons participating in sports can teach them.
That’s something to keep in mind this year during both victories and defeats.
Hopefully, of course, there will be more of the former than the latter for our Summit County high schools. But even if that outlook ultimately proves too optimistic, let’s commit to keeping prep sports in the proper context and enjoying them only for what they are.
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