Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A continuing series: My sports pet peeves, part 4

It's still quiet on the Detroit sports scene, unless you consider the possible Pistons signing of Tony Delk big news. HEY! Did you see that? Oh, it just 'Sheed getting T'ed up again... So, I figure it's pet peeve time...

"The Wayne Fontes Experience" presents number 4 in a series. Today's pet peeve: High school sports.

I admit that I'm a former high school jock. That's as far as it went, then it was nothing but rec leagues and the golf course for me. But even as a former high school athlete, I still cannot get into watching a high school game that I either wasn't playing in myself or knew someone close that was involved. Otherwise, I don't get fired up over the high school game. For several reasons.

I never understood the "Friday Night Lights" phenomenon of an entire town getting wrapped up in their local team. And that's coming from someone who grew up in a small town... Who wants to put that kind of pressure on a 17 year old kid? (Don't get me going on pre teens and the Little League World Series)

Also, the same goes here that I said about women and sports. It's just not a very good game when it comes to the style and flow of play. Good competition? Sure. Well played competition? Rarely. And the officiating? Let's not even go there...

Another part of high school sports that bothers me is the specialization of athletes. Not all that long ago, if you could, you played every sport. In my case, fall was football, winter was the hardcourt, and spring was baseball. Or, for that matter, you golfed, ran track or cross county, or wrestled. But you played more than one sport. But I never got tired of playing any of the sports. I see kids today focus on only one sport, 24/7/365. The thinking being, I'm sure, that it'll get them a full ride somewhere. Even with the narrow focus, the odds of your Joe Average getting a D-1 schools interest, are long. I bet, no, I'm sure, that if I had focused one sport, I would have been burned out by the time I was 16. Or turned into Todd Marinovich...

But what I've said so far aren't the main reasons for my disdain of high school sports. the biggest reason comes down to one thing. Coaches. It's always been too much of a coaches game. Too many coaches think of themselves as a martinet, a Bobby Knight or a Bo Schembechler, but without their coaching talent. They coach the fun and creativity right out of the game, and the kids. High school coaches often force their players into a boring style of play, one that doesn't necessarily fit the personnel, just because it's their "System." It's high school, let kids have fun, not run a Wishbone just because it worked in 1974. My buddies and I would always joke when talking about coaches and high school, that if we ever had an opportunity to coach, we'd install the run and shoot, the fun and gun, some sort of wide open offense, just because it'd be a blast for the kids. Much more fun that your typical high school coach whose idea of an wide open offense is running the Veer.

The pressures the coaches put on a kid, or for that matter, a kid places on themselves to play can be enormous. Personally, I can't believe some of the stupid things I did to keep my ass on the field. For me, a constant draining of fluid from the knees and then having Cortizone shots were commonplace. My parents talk of the times I would crawl into the house after a practice because my knee pain was so bad, it was just too much to walk. I lived with ice and heat packs on my legs. Rather than diagnose the problem, the hick doctor in our town would mask the pain. Turns out the major joint pain I had were a symptom of a much more serious disease that would rear it's ugly head later in my life. Which I now deal with daily.

So when I see the explosion of high school sports in the mainstream media, with ESPN broadcasts, McPaper national ratings, and the total absolute hysteria over recruiting, I can only shake my head. We're talking about kids. It's not news, it's only high school, for chissakes...


  1. Oh, man. I covered HS hoops for several months for a paper near Kalamazoo, and I loved it. It's not about talent, or contracts, it's about a bunch of kids that love to play.

  2. I coached various levels for over 10 years and really enjoyed it. I love watching a local high school game on Friday night in the fall. Not much better than that if you ask me!

  3. I think some of my bitterness over the hyping of high school sports was due to my experiences. I endured a lot of pain to play. But it's great for those involved, and I did have fun. But that level of sports needs to be kept in perspective. I should have put the "Hype" in my screed.