Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
August 28, 2013
The games are finally here.
During this past week, I have had the pleasure of meeting many of the areas area's coaches and talking about their teams for the Sept. 4 fall season preview section.
The thing I have taken away from all of those practices is that many of these coaches aren't just coaching a team - they are developing young people into stronger human beings.
This is one of those things I have always admired about sports: whether you are coaching a fifth-grade soccer team or a team led by a handful of seniors you've seen grow up through high school or college, area coaching staffs are role models for their student-athletes.
The lessons learned from coaches will have a lasting impact for all the young people for their entire lives. From what I've gathered, this will be positive for all the student-athletes competing this year.
At practice on Thursday, Dallas High School football coach Tracy Jackson talked to his team about honesty and integrity - with the implication that it wasn't just an important part of being on the football team.
Last week, I talked to Abigail Farler, who jumped at the chance to return to the place she grew up to coach softball at Western Oregon University.
This tells me a lot about a place - the fact a person who attributes who she is today to the lessons learned on the field in Polk County and wants to come back and pass along those lessons to the next generation of student-athletes.
Neither Jackson or Farler will ever be monetarily rich, or particularly famous in their positions as coaches, but this matters little to them.
They take their gratification from witnessing the positive characteristics they help instill in young people on the field - and when they apply these lessons off the field.
As in the case of Farler, these lessons ended up carrying into adulthood, and are paid forward to the next generation of young student-athletes.
I bring these experiences up for the fans and parents, who, as I have also gathered - love and support their teams. I hope you all enjoy the season, and just want to remind you whatever team you support, no matter who the opponent is, be good sports - and support your student-athletes, win or lose.
Sportsmanship is the other thing I admire about amateur sports. The coaches are doing the best they can. The officials are, too, and I would be remiss if I didn't say that I will be as well.
Part of the beauty of amateur sports is, in fact, the imperfection of it all - the "if only" moments that make up games and the season. Passes will be dropped, runners will trip, opportunities on goal will be missed.
What is important is that they catch the next one, get up, and try their best to put the next shot in the net.
It is not always about the wins and losses. This area has become famous for understanding that principle. In 2007, it was the WOU women's softball team capturing the attention of the country - not for a win, but as a recipient of a selfless act of sportsmanship when Central Washington's Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace carried WOU's Sara Tucholsky around the bases after she tore her anterior cruciate ligament rounding first base.
In November, Falls City's Ethan McConnell will receive the Stan Musial National Sportsmanship Award from the St. Louis Sports Commission for his own show of sportsmanship when he assisted his opponent, Davan Overton, on a three point shot at the buzzer. Overton, who has an extremely rare condition that limits his athletic ability, was out there with the goal of making a basket. McConnell facilitated that opportunity.
These student-athletes know that they can leave their mark in their community, even if it is not on a championship team.
This area is a beacon for what amateur sports should be - a place to mold young people into good human beings through competition.
Enjoy the season and keep it positive.
Landon Kafka is the sports editor at the Itemizer-Observer. He can be reached at 503-623-2373, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow the I-O sports department on Twitter @PolkIOSports.