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Column

Put the work in, all will benefit

“You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him (or her) drink.”

That might be too out of date for the youth of today. I heard this saying all my life. What’s it mean?

You can show someone something that will benefit him, but you can’t force him to accept it. People, like horses, will do as they will.

I’m applying this to athletes and those who support them in their endeavors. Growing up we all have dreams and athletes dream of making it to the high school varsity, college and professional levels. Even as a tomboy playing baseball with my brothers, I would imagine coming to bat in the bottom of the ninth with one on and two outs hitting a two-run home run to win a World Series.

Don’t laugh. In the 1960s and 1970s, there weren’t a lot of female athletes as role models. Most were Olympic champions and I was never a good ice skater. I never played tennis.

According to NCAA findings, of the many girls and boys growing up dreaming of playing sports in college and beyond only 495,000 of the almost 8 million students participating in high school athletics in the United States will compete at NCAA schools. Of that group, only a fraction will realize their goal of becoming a professional or Olympic athlete.

What’s your point Jocelyn? My point is let youth enjoy youth sports. That goes from the youth T-ball, softball and baseball, basketball, swimming, volleyball, tennis, track and field, wrestling, soccer and the list goes on.

There is not going to be another Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Derek Jeter or George Brett. There’s not going to be another Megan Gustafson, Serena Williams or Lindsey Vonn. The greats in each sport had talent and the intangibles to reach the pinnacles.

Allow each young athlete be the best of themselves — encourage them to work hard as an individual, as a teammate and as a coachable athlete. Dream athletes, dream, but to achieve to be the best you there is, you have to put in the work, the focus and the sacrifices needed.

Being a strong teammate is important and those traits should be encouraged by family and friends. Losing is not fun but an athlete and those supporting them have to have the same attitude if they or their team was winning.

Coaches provide the tools — practices and drills — to be better for each athlete. They are coaching because they love the game and enjoy working with youth. Criticism comes with the praise in sports and in the working world.

Sportsmanship is becoming scarce among young athletes and fans. Athletes believe they are entitled to start in a sport and some of their parents perpetuate this entitlement. They blame others for a miscue or for a loss instead of pulling together to get better as individuals and as a team.

Fans blame the coaches. I’ve got news for you — coaches don’t swing the bats, or shoot the basketball or block at the net or block at the line. If you are not hitting in softball or baseball, go out and play defense — make the plays in the field to keep your team in the game. Go ask the coach for help in your hitting technique.

“If you want to play, make me play you. Make it so that I’m an idiot if I don’t have you on the court.” NBA coach Gregg Popovich.

I love that notion. Work hard enough and become good enough a coach has to play you. If you do that, you will help your teammates become better.

It’s such sound thinking — take a drink for your benefit.

Contact Jocelyn Sheets at jsheets@newtondailynews.com

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