Wednesday, February 16, 2005


PreservingThe Benefits Of Student Athleticism

Below, I talk about a Motivation seminar I attended today, while at times the "Rah Rah Rah" stuff seemed quite cultish, and while the infomercial-esque sales pitches worked on thousands searching "fix" to their lives for $499.00 on another seminar, there were some great speakers. Zig Ziglar, noted speaker worked the room like a Baptist minister. He talked about spirituality, positive thinking, acting and behavior. Walk up to someone and say "good morning" in the middle of the afternoon. See what they will say. I immediately went to Track practice and tried it with 3 athletes. They all responded at 4 p.m. with "Good Morning". The message is simple - you get what you give. I quickly used that to influence their practice work ethic when I was not in the immediate vicinity of their practice.
Rudolph Giuliani: People follow positive people, not pessimists. Courage is making the right decisions despite political winds. He may have been the most impressive speaker this day.
Joe Montana: Preparation - you must have a work ethic based on preparation. The 49ers prepared ad nauseum and that's why we were so good. We worked from 7:30 am until 4 p.m. We never let anyone out work us. Jerry Rice came in as a rookie and couldn't catch a cold. When he finally caught a 10 yard pass in practice he turned and ran 60 yards into the end zone. We all laughed at the rookie and got on him because practice was long enough. But he did it on every catch. It is not a coincidence that he is the NFL's all time leading TD scorer. Soon John Taylor would catch a pass in practice and go to the end zone, then Roger Craig did the same. I knew it paid off when we were playing the Rams in L.A. We had the ball on the 4 yd. line. John Taylor caught a pass on the 10 and went 96 yards for a TD. He would never have gotten into the end zone had it not been for Jerry Rice throwing a block on the far 20 yd line. Next, we got the ball on the 6 yard line and I threw a pass to Taylor and he went the distance again and Jerry was there throwing a block again that sprung John to the end zone. If those guys hadn't practiced that every day and gotten into that habit we wouldn't have won that game.

The real point is, out of the speakers who were there for motivation, not selling something, all but one referred to a coach they once had who motivated or inspired them. Other speakers referred to coaches such as the great Vince Lombardi. Ironically a friend of mine pointed out that all of the referrals were about football coaches. We are in a society today that continues to devalue what our coaches do for our kids. Funding is being cut back. Our leaders played sports. Our feeder elementary schools are removing PE, Band, and Art. Kids are loosing out on those opportunities. With sedentary lifestyle and obesity issues killing higher numbers every year, and countless dollars being spent to fight and treat the results of inactivity and overeating, why are we killing athletics, particularly PE. We push technology to our kids but childhood obesity is as high as it has ever been. Americans spend millions on diet drugs, programs, and anything they can get their hands on. Parents have no problem letting their kids sit home and play supernofriendo while they lose their physical fitness. It has gotten to the point where no funding leads to these cuts and the parents are okay with it. As a result, our district has allowed student to get PE credit for taking 3 years of Band. They also allow over 300 kids per summer to take PE and "get it out of the way". You should see the physical state these kids are in - its pathetic. They cannot run, throw or jump. Not that these are keys to a successful life, but without PE, where do they learn lifelong activeness. We teach bowling, hiking, softball etc. It isn't just about playing a game. It is lifetime fitness and activeness. If the elementary schools lose PE, the parent natural response will be - why should they have to take it in high school. I promise you that is the next step. The obvious loss is physical fitness but there are other consequences.

Cutting PE & Health classes cuts those teachers out of the school. In addition, most of these people are the coaches at our schools. A sister district school that has a population of students that cannot afford summer school PE has 1000 less students than my school and they have more PE teachers. So what happens when you loose those coaches. Well, ask those gentlemen I disucussed earlier: what influence - good or bad - their coaches had on them? Will we get coaches to replace them? It will be hard, but can be done. Who are these people? There are some great off campus coaches, don't get me wrong. But, they are not educators. There is a huge difference in many coaching aspects when the coach does not have the entire child in mind. Without education in the way, win at all costs prevails and that is certainly not in the best interest of the student/student-athlete. In addition, teachers go through a thorough screening process, and while not perfect, it is better than opening the door to off campus coaches.

Keep athletics and PE. Get involved in what is going on in relation to this issue in your community. Support student athletes and their coaches and find our what your community coaches philosophies are about. Ask how you can help ALL extra curricular activities in you schools. Give tax credit donations to your program. Call you school board and see what they are doing to preserve extracurricular activities. Assist your local school by volunteering at athletic or other extracurricular activities. Being around kids, particularly these kids, is rewarding. They are doing something very difficult that a majority of their peers are not. That is what makes them different, they are striving to be better and enjoy doing a little extra. If everyone does a little, no one has to do it all.

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