With all of the contract hassles and employer-employee feuds in professional sports, it's refreshing to view sports from the high school perspective.
Sure, there's the pressure of winning and the pressure for some of performing well enough to get a college scholarship, but there's also an innocence and exuberance from the joy of competing that seems to be missing at the professional level.This was brought to mind at this week's state cross country championships at Sugarhouse Park. Each individual had goals to achieve. And the pressure for each individual to do so probably came from within - no shoe contracts would be lost for failure to perform up to expectations.
It was a mental and physical exercise that served as a perfect complement to the everyday experience in the classroom.
The charge of making the athletic experience worthwhile falls to a group of unsung heroes - the high school coaches.
These men and women don't coach for money. The small amount they're paid is minimal compared to the long hours they devote to their teams. As in the classroom, their goal is to help kids. Most succeed admirably. And most keep their sport in proper perspective.
Coaches like Jim Dickson at Davis, Marie Bone at Pleasant Grove, Lynn Dubois at Viewmont, Sue Woodbury at Weber and Lou Andrus at Lehi are cases in point.
There's more to the Davis High football program than just bashing heads on Friday nights. On homecoming weekend, Dickson invites players and their dates to his home to share good food and good company before the homecoming dance. That togetherness is evident in the Darts' performance on the gridiron.
Bone's volleyball team is the defending 3A champion. Again, the theme is togetherness. As she carried the trophy around the floor after clinching the title last year, she talked of team cohesiveness, how the season started with girls and coaches trekking to the block "G" on the foothills of Mt. Timpanogos to talk about goals.
Dubois, whose Viking cross country team took the 4A championship last year and finished second this year, likes to have a meeting with parents early in the season to go over the program. At the cross country get-together this year, he said he wanted to talk about the team's accomplishments. The accomplishments he discussed, though, were those in the classroom. He talked about the two Sterling Scholars on the team, the several runners who were also student-body officers, and the president of the school's seminary program, who was also on the cross-country team. The grade-point average, he said, was outstanding, about 3.5.
Woodbury has coached numerous standouts during her years as girls track coach at Weber High. The past several years the Warriors have dominated girls' track. Woodbury gained much from her association from the athletes, as they did from her. She unselfishly stepped down after winning the championship last year so that another coach could benefit from that association.
And Andrus, who resigned as the Lehi football coach earlier this month, was more than just a coach to his players. He was noted for his annual steak fry-slumber party on the football field. One of his highlights was having former players return as assistant coaches.
It's that balanced approach to athletics - represented by the aforementioned coaches - that makes high school sports such a noteworthy endeavor.