Guest Written by Tracey Johnston-Brown
A roaring crowd, a student section waving signs and players executing what they have worked for all year is what I remember most of my high school days. Athletics have always been a big part of my life, and I’m so thankful for the opportunities I’ve been blessed to be a part of. Those opportunities helped to shape and prepare me for the work force and life in general. The months I put in the gym lifting, the 6 a.m. runs, the physically demanding practices were all worth it to be in a packed gym playing a game I loved. I know some people would argue whether school funds should be spent to support high school athletics when that money could be shifted into academics. As an educator myself, I value academics very much, however, academics alone cannot prepare for all of life’s curve balls. Being part of a team fosters leadership, teamwork and determination as well as achievement of personal goals. These qualities are why many community leaders were athletes in their high school days.
Athletics also provide a place for the community to unite and cheer on their children, creating pride in the school, which overflows into community pride. I remember, from back in my high school days, an elder of the community telling me I did a good job in a game the night before. My face beamed with satisfaction. Those small words affirmed everything I had worked for. It’s good to see the support continuing today just as the community supported our teams in my day. Our little community supports the teams with their presence at games, monetary support and providing food for the coaches and players. As a player, and now as a coach, I can tell you that when the community is involved it makes you feel appreciated and proud. I know it motivates me and my players to work that much harder for themselves, their school and their hometown.
It seems like academics or athletics is always the question for debate. I say you need a healthy dose of both to have a well-rounded individual. I have been coaching for fifteen years, and I must say that most of my athletes perform well in the classroom. They have to maintain certain grade point levels to be eligible to play. Most athletes are very self-disciplined to achieve results on the field, this drives them in the classroom, too. Time management is the key to an athlete’s success in all realms of high school. I also preach to my girls that they are role models of the school, ambassadors actually, and good grades represent our team and school well.
There is life after high school sports, and for former athletes who know the value of dedication and teamwork, it’s often a successful life. Many will go on to excel in whatever field they choose because they learned, through athletics, how to set goals and work to achieve them. They will have the dedication to see a job through just as they did their job on the court. Succeeding in life takes cooperation with others just as it was when they were working with teammates to get the big W.
When I look back at high school many of my memories involve my days as an athlete. I can remember the bonding I had with my teammates, at a camp staying up late in the dorm, or when we went to state in basketball and competed for a championship. We had some silly times, some down times, but all of it created special bonding and memories I will never forget. As a coach I have had many memories with taking my girls to camps, practices when I scrimmaged with the girls so they could poke fun at me, and most of all winning a State Championship with a team that no one thought could do it. Girls that were so focused and believed in themselves so much that they could overcome any obstacle set before them. It was teamwork like I had never seen before.
Most athletes have that passion inside of them to be better. If anyone doubted the value of athletics in high school, I hope my small glimpse helps you to see the bigger picture.
Guest Written by Tracey Johnston-Brown