by Ollie Cooperwood
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point Wrestling Coach
Assistant Wrestling Coach West Carteret High School
The importance of sports in the life of a young student is invaluable and goes much further than the basic answer that "it keeps kids off the streets." It does in fact keep kids off the streets, but it also instills lessons that are essential in the life of a student athlete. Sports play a pivotal role in the makeup of a young athlete, especially in the middle school to high school years where student athletes are much more mature and mentally developed. Where else can a young, impressionable youth learn values like discipline, responsibility, self confidence, sacrifice, and accountability? Television, which may be the most influential tool in the lives of young adults, does not show enough of these qualities, nor is it on the Internet, or radio. Rather it is up to the parents, teachers, sports teams, clubs, and after school programs to help mold, develop, and instill these qualities into the lives of student athletes. I believe in order for this to happen, school sports programs must have a few components in place. The first thing they need is a good core of coaches that understand the great responsibility that is placed upon their shoulders to help shape and prepare these student athletes not only in sports, but in their everyday lives. Yes, I did say coaches, because it is a responsibility that lies on the shoulders of more than one person and it is going to take more than one person to help lead these student athletes to success.
The second component also involves the coaches: It is the ability to capture the admiration and the trust of the athletes. This is crucial because if you can capture a person's admiration and trust you can motivate them to perform at a higher level not only in sports, but also in their own lives. If you can get the athletes to believe in you and your philosophies you can begin to see significant changes in grades and behavior. It all starts with coaches that have a plan and methodology behind the principles they are teaching. As I said earlier, there is a great responsibility on the coaches to help young student athletes make a smooth transition into society.
The third and I believe the most crucial of all is the support that comes from the community, and administration. This is very important because student athletes need to know they are appreciated and there is no greater way than for the community, booster club, and commissioners/treasurers to show that appreciation than to get involved in youth athletics. In order to accomplish this it's going to take investment and the most valuable investments are money and time. The more invested, the better the results. I can attest that there is no greater investment than the future of our young student athletes. When these things are in place, I believe student athletes will benefit and the results will be evident not only on the field, but long after they step off of it.