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It doesn’t get better than high school sports

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COUNTY SPORTS SCENE by JOHN SHINDLEBOWER/Sports Columnist

 

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My job is about to get fun again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love sitting through three hour fiscal court meetings and reporting on riveting topics such as sewage line expansion and mold in the Sheriff’s Office - but there’s only so much excitement  I can take.

So like millions of Americans, I find a relaxing respite in the world of sports. And over the course of several years, I’ve found that the purest level of sport is played on the high school fields and courts.

I enjoy the professionals. They’re great at what they do and they play the game at the highest level. But there’s not a lot of loyalty when players often switch from one team to another, and owners discard team members like trading cards.

The college game used to be my favorite. There’s a bit more passion involved when rival schools butt helmets, the bands blare out the school fight song and fan bases engage in sometimes heated and hostile trash-talking. But once you get close to major college athletics, you realize it’s all about the money. The kids are pawns, the coaches are often celebrated pitch-men and the idea that many of these kids are serious about academics is a fantasy.

In high school, the game is still being played by kids, the local kids you see in your neighborhood, down the road, at your church, or bagging your groceries. There’s a mutual benefit of high school sports that’s refreshing. The kids are good for the game, and the game is good for the kids.

Young athletes learn life-long values like work ethic, sportsmanship, teamwork and cooperation. On an athletic team, shallow differences such as race or background can disappear. For all that’s wrong with sports, one of the beautiful things about a football team is seeing black kids lining up next to white kids to do battle against a common foe. The only color that matters is the one they’re wearing.  If there’s ever a time we need reminded of that, it’s now.

So in just two weeks, your local Spencer County Bears and Lady Bears will be taking the court and running onto the field to play a game they love, and to represent their school. Here in a small town, it’s more than just a school they’re playing for, but an entire community.

Each morning over the past couple of weeks as I’ve driven into Taylorsville, I’ve seen the soccer teams practicing. No doubt, they’re doing the same inside the gym as the girls get ready for their volleyball season, and there’s been a very large group of kids lining the front parking lot of the high school who will comprise the Spencer County High School Marching Band.

They’ll entertain the crowd on Friday nights when the football team takes the field, hopefully to crowds that are as excited and as enthusiastic as last season when the Bears set a new standard for success with an amazing 10-2 record.

If you talk to the coaches, they’ll tell that while the kids are motivated by a love of the game, there’s nothing like a big crowd cheering them on to bring out the best in them. That’s why high school sports is not just an opportunity for you to be a spectator, but a participant. Get out this fall and support your local teams!

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Kudos to the coaches and other volunteers who stepped up to make some much-needed improvements to the girls locker room in the gym at Spencer County High School.

Lady Bears Basketball Coach Brandy Scott spoke excidedly about the makeover for months, and was all smiles Friday night as she welcomed parents and players to their new home for practices and games.

It may seem like a superficial improvement, but little things often can make a big difference.

The emphasis on celebrating success often breeds a desire for future accomplishments. When there’s pride in the program, it becomes a breeding ground for aspirations of younger kids.

Volleyball Coach Whitney Reno is equally pleased with the results and optimistic about the future of the program. The new locker room simply makes the athletes feel more appreciated.

I’ve seen a lot of improvements at Spencer County High School when it comes to athletics over the past 14 years, and almost all of it has been generated by caring coaches, parents, players and volunteers.

SCHS does not have the best facilities in the state. In fact, they’re well below average to be honest. But they’re getting better and it’s getting done without donors simply writing a big check and making it easy.

Adults are working hard to provide better places for athletes to play hard. The fruit of all that labor will not just be enjoyed this year, but hopefully for many years to come.