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Granite Falls Advocate Tribune - Granite Falls, MN
  • Guest Editorial: Kids, Coaches, Commitment

  • I have spent some time recently reading articles about building and sustaining competitive athletic programs. Most articles list a wide variety of necessary ingredients that need to be present. They include things like adequate facilities and practice time, responsible and respected team leaders, and enough humility to never ...
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  •     I have spent some time recently reading articles about building and sustaining competitive athletic programs. Most articles list a wide variety of necessary ingredients that need to be present. They include things like adequate facilities and practice time, responsible and respected team leaders, and enough humility to never be satisfied with where you are. Most I believe would agree with all the things on the list, but the two ingredients at the top of the lists, and rightfully so, are elite athletes and staff.  
        Let’s not confuse success with competitiveness. Successes can be found in any season, and is relative based on where you start. Success is obviously measured in a number of ways, and many factors must be considered when determining if you were successful or not.              Competitiveness on the other hand is easier to measure.  Look at the scoreboard at the end of the contest, and the win-loss record at the end of the season, and it will give you a pretty good idea of how competitive the team was.  There may be factors to consider like injuries, size of the competing schools, or the conference you play in, but measuring competitiveness is something that can be done.  
        There has been much discussion here at school and in the communities about the competitiveness of some of our athletic teams recently. I have a few friends in town that emphatically claim that the talent level of athletes each year stays the same, and that it is the efforts of the coaching staff that fluctuates from year to year. Sarcasm aside, it is much too easy for people to point the finger at the coaching staff when the program is struggling. It is equally as easy for coaches to simply say we do not have the talent to be competitive. Unfortunately, neither approach gets us any closer to building solid programs.
        Assuming you agree that it takes elite athletes and coaches to build and sustain competitive athletic programs, the question becomes how do we get there?  I would argue that the complicated argument could be narrowed down to one word… Time. Coaches need to take the time to scout opponents, watch film, attend clinics, design effective practice plans and help develop younger athletes in their program.  They must put the time in to the program it takes to earn the respect of the athletes. They also need time to develop the skill set to be an effective coach.  They need time to fail, and learn from their mistakes. They need support from school staff, administration, and board members. I would argue that there are more life lessons taught after 3 p.m. each day than there are during school hours. They need support from parents, even when decisions being made may be in the best interest of the team, and not necessarily what is the best for your child. It would be ideal if coaches could take the time to start at a low level, and work their way up the coaching ranks over the years. Unfortunately, that is not the reality anymore.  It takes time to become an elite coach, and most that reach that level will immediately deflect all credit to the elite players they have coached over the years. The two typically go hand in hand.
    Page 2 of 2 -     Athletes also must put in the necessary time. They are undoubtedly the major stakeholders, and largest piece of the puzzle. The “off-season” continues to carry more and more weight at the high school level. To be competitive, athletes need to log many hours in the driveway, gym, field and weight room to hone their skills. There are certainly those who are born with more ability than others, but the adage that great players are made, not born, holds very true. There is no magic answer or quick fix. If team A wants to be competitive with team B, they need to work as hard and as long as team B does.  Parents can help by having a discussion about what it is their kids want out of athletics, and encouraging their kids to put the time in, and reinforcing the philosophy that eventually, “you reap what you sow”.  
        Personally, I think kids, coaches and families in general are already spread too thin.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t change the recipe for fielding competitive teams. Pointing fingers and placing blame in any one direction will not get us to where we want to be. It will take a concentrated effort by all involved to get back to where we want to be.
        I would like to challenge readers to be part of the solution.
        See you in the seats.
    Tim Knapper is the YME Community Education Director and Athletic Director. This column appeared in the Winter- Spring 2013 Community Education  brochure.
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