Remember when sports were fun?
I don't. Five years as a sports writer have clouded my memories of those glorious fall days playing football in the backyard with friends.
The Saturday mornings playing basketball on the blacktop of the elementary school seem far removed.
Now sports are about shoe deals, free agency, steroids, rape and money, money, money.
Dollar signs are one reason why there is an explosion of parental involvement in youth athletics. The American Dream has transformed from white picket fence and two chickens in every pot to full-ride scholarships to Duke and an SUV from the alumni booster club.
Sports aren't fun anymore and it's because of those dollar signs. Fourteen-year-old golf phenom Michelle Wie, 12-year-old soccer star Freddy Adu, LeBron James, Maurice Clarett.
Who's next? A lot of people think their child is. That's why parents and youth-organized athletics don't mix, especially when visions of scholarship dollars are dancing in parents' heads.
Parental involvement is a sign of the times. Unfortunately, coaches need to deal with it.
At the Aug. 25 Aitkin School Board meeting the Gobbler Nation witnessed the power of parents.
At the request of a few, a sports committee was developed. The goal is to determine ways to help Aitkin become an athletic powerhouse.
I hope this works for the sake of all involved.
But if parents are truly worried about their child's future, why don't we ever hear about them forming a math study group? Why isn't there a parent-led book club or science lab?
Look at how many professional athletes there are in the world compared to engineers, doctors or bankers. Maybe your child isn't the next Kevin Garnett. I haven't seen too many 6-11 small forwards since I've been covering high school basketball.
But I think coaches need to look at the times and how they are changing. Coaches need to adapt to outside pressure more than ever. But guess what? Who doesn't?
Look at any job and you'll see they're all tied to the public. Consider a convenience store owner. If the public doesn't like the way the business is being run then the public won't spend its money there. If the owner doesn't adapt and the public continues to stay away, the owner will lose money.
Aitkin athletics haven't actually being tearing things up. The last time Aitkin went to a state football tournament was in 1982. Aitkin has never been to a state girls' basketball tournament. The last time the Aitkin boys' basketball team went to state was in 1982.
So, by those merits, maybe there is something this committee can do to help make Aitkin programs better. Let's face it, winning is always more fun.
But, my guess is that back in 1982 there were some pretty good athletes at Aitkin. Having talked to many coaches who have helped their teams to state, they all say they can scout, prepare and coach themselves to death and it doesn't mean a thing. Once those 11 football players, five basketball players, six volleyball players and six hockey players step onto the field, court or rink it's up to the athletes to execute.
The better the athlete, the better the execution.
Why was the Hopkins boys' basketball team so good? Kris Humphries. Why was the Duluth East boys' basketball team so good? Rick Rickert. Why was the Fosston girls' basketball team so good? Kelly Roysland.
Why are teams good? Why do teams win?
Parents shouldn't lose sight of what a coaching staff is offering. Coaches at Aitkin know what they're doing. They're quality coaches who know their sport.
More important is the leadership skills they have. Aitkin girls' basketball coach Jen Waldorf and her program have been mentioned at previous school board meetings, and not in a good light. Her initial reaction was to become defensive, then she decided to take the high road.
It's that example, that leadership, that should mean more than a few more victories.
JEREMY MILLSOP, sports writer, can be reached at jeremy.millsop@
brainerddispatch.com or 855-5856.
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