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There’s still a couple more full weeks of summer vacation left for students, but student-athletes participating in fall sports are already back at school at least part of the time preparing for the upcoming season.
The big team sports like football, soccer and volleyball will be starting in August and players are currently sweating out practices and conditioning in the heat of July. There are new coaches and new challenges for many of the teams and we’ll be introducing you to some of these new faces in the coming weeks in the Magnet.
Both boys and girls soccer programs at the high school have new coaches this year. Mike Marksbury returns for his second season as head coach of the football team and the Lady Bears Volleyball Team looks to keep building its reputation as a contender.
July is a season of hope for these teams. They’re all undefeated, encouraged by their potential and no doubt they’re looking forward to the start of a new season. In just a few short weeks the whistles will blow, the games will begin and the next crop of student-athletes at Spencer County High School will be representing this community. Make plans to come out and support these kids with your attendance.
As a lover of history and of sports, I always like a story that combines the two. Such was the case recently when I saw some television coverage of a youth baseball team who visited Kentucky last week.
They are called the Monarchs and they hail from Philadelphia. It’s a group of young boys from the inner city who are traveling across much of the country by bus to help teach them and others about the history of the old Negro leagues.
It’s an old school trip. The boys use wooden bats, ride a vintage 1947 bus that is not equipped with air conditioning or a bathroom, and while on the bus, they are not allowed to use any electronic devices. The trip is designed to give these boys, both black and white, a feel for what it was like to be a ballplayer back during the age of segregation.
A lot of things have changed for the better since those days, but how refreshing it is to see an effort to honor those who endured such hardships all for the love of a simple game. There are those who argue that American kids need to be in school year-round like they are in other countries – but I’d submit that the boys on this trip are getting a much better education during their summer vacation than anything they’d ever read about in a book.
REDS SWEEP CARDS
Speaking of baseball, the Cincinnati Reds completed a three-game sweep of the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals Sunday night. Despite a bit of a stumble heading into the All-Star break recently, the Reds have bounced back and appear poised to take control of the National League Central Division race.
It’s been a year of surprises, especially in the National League where those pesky Pirates continue to lag just a game behind the Reds and they seem intent on proving that they’re for real. I’m too invested in the Reds to wish for any other outcome than Cincinnati taking the pennant, but the Pirates winning would certainly be a cool story.
Likewise, the Washington Nationals entered the second half of the season with the best record in the National League. This team was a doormat since baseball returned to D.C. a few years ago, but they built their roster around youngsters like pitching sensation Stephen Stasburg, infielder Ryan Zimmerman, and the current rookie sensation, 19-year-old Bryce Harper. Combined with some key veterans, the Nationals now have a solid team that could walk away with their division.
In the American League, the Yankees shook off some early season rust and seem to have regrouped as the normal contenders for a crown. The biggest challenge the Yankees may have to ensuring their place in the Fall Classic in late October will be the Texas Rangers. The Baltimore Orioles may be the surprise of the league as they contend for a possible Wild Card birth.
How many times do we watch television only to see a sports reporter standing outside a courthouse to deliver his news. Used to be, the bulk of reports from the sports department originated from the ball field or gymnasium, the practice facilities or locker rooms – but not now.
NBA star Jason Kidd was arrested this weekend for DUI. Former U of L football star and current Denver Bronco Elvis Dumervil was arrested for felonious assault involving a firearm. There have been many other arrests in the months before this, and no doubt, next weekend there may be even more professional athletes who somehow think they are above the law.
The league may come down with some fines for these infractions, but the teams themselves — the actual employers — need to take a tougher stance against athletes who run afoul of the law. Part of an athlete’s job — whether they want to acknowledge it or not — is to represent their franchise and their city with class and respect. Employees in other professions are often fired if they bring embarrassment or ridicule upon their employers. Why should star athletes be any different?
PENN STATE PRESENTS OPPORTUNITY FOR REFORM
The Penn State scandal has been one the biggest stories, not just in sports, but in all of news the past eight months and rightly so. The more that’s learned about the scandal, the more shame is brought to a once proud program.
While the actual allegations of abuse still only involved one man, it’s the cover-up, the protection and the lack of institutional control of a university over a sports program that has hopefully served as a wake-up call to schools across the nation.
University presidents and their boards had best wrestle control of their schools away from popular coaches and programs. College athletics may be more popular than ever when it comes to revenue and TV viewership, but the integrity behind the concept of student-athletes playing a game while getting an education has been sullied in recent years and not only by criminal scandals. If the powers-that-be won’t use this opportunity to reform college athletics back to what it was originally intended for, I’m afraid it never will be done.