Sports

Sidelines

"Recently we had a beautiful, sun-filled Saturday on the island. I hated to spend this rare October day indoors, thinking in the back of my mind that this might be the last chance to get out on a hot day for a while.I grabbed the paper to have a look for something to do or some place to go and ended up in Coupeville to watch the Wolves' football game against Orcas.It wasn't a very fun game to watch - Orcas put a pretty good whipping on Coupeville 45-0. But I was reminded of several things that make high school sports more appealing to me than professional contests.Parking was free and I didn't have to arrive two hours early to find a parking spot. I arrived about five minutes before kickoff and had 27-second walk to the gate. Just before kickoff, a group of Coupeville students carried in a large couch, obviously out of someone's basement, and set up their own luxury suite just behind the goal posts in the east end zone. The concessions were great. Unlike those drowned, over-priced hot dogs or soggy burgers found at Safeco Field or Key Arena, these were grilled right there in front of me on a grill just like the one I have at home. Fresh, hot, good and no need to take out a second mortgage for lunch. What a concept.There wasn't a scoreboard with a Jumbo-tron. In fact the scoreboard went blank just after half time, but the officials on the field kept everyone abreast of the time remaining. And if you wanted to know the score you could ask somebody.There weren't any dancers doing choreographed dance routines to songs we've all heard too many times, just regular high school kids cheering on their team.They did have instant replay. I spent most of the game standing alongside a parent from Orcas who was filming the game. If we missed something or just wanted to have another look, he just hit rewind. When a player made a good play, there was no posing for the camera, but occasionally one might look towards the bench for a sign of approval. And after scoring a touchdown the ball was handed promptly to the nearest official. Late in the game there were plenty of back-up players on the field for both teams. The Orcas quarterback looked toward the bench for the instructions for the next play only to hear his coach tell him to call it himself. It was late in a lopsided game and the young man had enough sense to just hand it off and let the clock run. But what really struck me was something one of the Coupeville players said to his teammates late in the game as the Wolves huddled. Come on guys, he said, we're supposed to be having fun out here, get your heads up.A few nights later I was watching Real Sports on HBO. There was a segment about the violence that has become a problem in youth sports. They touched a little on over-bearing parents and aggressive coaches. But they also interviewed a college professor who studies youth sports. In a survey taken among literally hundreds of thousands of young people the professor had found the number one cause of young people leaving a team or sport was that they were not having fun any more.High school and youth sports are supposed to be fun. It was good to see so many signs of people, both on and off the field, having fun on a sunny fall afternoon.---------------------Bill Nance writes about prep sports each Wednesday in the News-Times. He can be reached at nance@whidbey.net "

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