High school sports offer the best learning environment

Updated 9/18/2014 9:34 PM

Watching the daily drama of "As the NFL Turns," or more accurately turns a lot of stomachs, makes it easy to understand why so many of us appreciate high school sports.

Then, big-time college football jumped into the public eye for all the wrong reasons Wednesday with the latest issues plaguing reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.


That does not mean the preps are the perfect escape route for entertainment. There are definitely warts and problems that make many of us cringe, such as players who hop from school to school in search of something better and expectations on coaches to succeed that can rival the level of the professionals.

But the high school sports arena is still more conducive to teaching and learning than the higher levels. And there have been plenty of teachable moments, for not just high school football players, but all athletes recently.

Athletes are taught from a young age about the importance of competing and figuratively fighting for everything they can in order to succeed. It is important, however, that young athletes are taught that literally fighting for something -- on or off the field -- is not acceptable and won't be tolerated.

One of the great aspects of high school sports is the raw emotion that comes out of success and failure. Prep athletes aren't as jaded or business-like about winning and losing as professional or even collegiate athletes.

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This is clearly a time where coaches, parents and teachers must make it clear that those emotions have to be controlled. The euphoria of winning doesn't entitle an athlete to behave irresponsibly. The disappointment of losing is no excuse for an athlete to take out his or her frustrations on someone else.

It's not easy considering athletes of all ages have a tendency to dwell on what went wrong. But sometimes it's important to tell kids to just let it go and not beat themselves or someone else up after a tough day or game.

There is no doubt most of us have had enough of the headlines, lead stories and seemingly endless discussions of what's happened in the last few weeks in the NFL.

Hopefully there are some valuable lessons that trickle down to the high school level. Even the brightest stars can be dimmed significantly -- or even snuffed out -- by behavior that is unacceptable.

• Marty Maciaszek is a freelance columnist for the Daily Herald who can be reached at marty.maciaszek@gmail.com.

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