Don't forget why you play.
Many coaches and players have figured it out, but several are still searching. From a former athlete in Colorado Springs, I can tell you what's most important: fun.
I played four years of baseball at Coronado and probably won 10 games in that span — at a certain point, you stop counting.
When I look back, I remember the friends, my family being in attendance and the sport itself. I didn't know it yet, but it would be the last time I'd pick up a baseball in a competitive setting.
I also remember the bad. The arguments with coaching staffs, the chatter between opponents and fans yelling from the stands. None of those things had a chance to make the sport more fun.
None of those bad things included losing, either. Participation trophies have done just as much bad for sports as an over-emphasis on winning, but it's not about being able to be a 'good loser.' It's about being able to keep things in perspective.
Now, I see it even more. Parents are screaming from the stands, almost to the point their ears produce steam like an old cartoon. They may be yelling at a referee, a coach or even the player that will ride home with them in two hours.
I can look back on my years as a high school athlete and tell you that none of that matters. You're not enhancing your child's experience by being belligerent in the stands. If he ever does store that in a memory bank, it'll be in a negative light.
Parents, you had your chance, just like I did. Now, it's time to let the next generation have a fun, worthwhile experience — not live vicariously through them and in turn, putting a damper on their time.
Only halfway through the football season, I've even witnessed a fist fight between teams. The athletes, in large part, are following the examples set around them.
Don't like something? Fight it, even if it injures others. Disagree? Call names, scream and scramble for excuses.
Spending time worrying about looking cool on the field or showing off 'leadership' by screaming at opponents or referees is worthless. Worrying about turning your athleticism into a money-making machine can't be called worthless, but it's unfortunate.
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) sees the activities as extensions.
"(Sports and activities) are not a diversion, but rather an extension of a good educational program. Students who participate in activity programs tend to have higher grade-point averages, better attendance records, lower dropout rates and fewer discipline problems."
The extension, in many ways, is geared towards making better people. People who will be able to overcome life's hurdles. People who won't quit upon failing, but use it as fuel.
Sports and activities are a way for students to become even better versions of themselves.
Parents, coaches and athletes: don't let it happen to your program. Don't support whining or grasping for straws and name-calling. Support having fun and shaking off the tough moments with positivity.
As CHSAA encourages schools to say before games, cheer for your team, not against the other (the 'other' including referees who are sacrificing their free time to support children. Give them a break).
A smile after the game, win or loss, is just as good. Never discount the power of joy. Only one team wins every year, and if that's not you, don't let falling short define your season.