The first group of preps I followed will be approaching their 25th class reunion soon. In the intervening years I have attended, covered and photographed so many games, matches, meets, tournaments, events, etc. that I dare not even try to compute the total.
There have been observable changes in many sports, for both the good and the bad and there have most certainly been changes in how sports are coached and how they are perceived by the public.
Along with that have come noticeable changes in the behaviors of parents and other adults, few of which, I believe, are for the better.
The so-called “old school” coaches — those who stress strict discipline and take a no-nonsense approach — are now few and far between. I consider them gems.
Far too often parents have taken it upon themselves to interject themselves between their son or daughter and the coach or school officials. Almost always this has created a negative result.
The growth of AAU and other “club” sports has athletes (these are kids, remember?) spending, in my opinion, far too much of their time in pursuit of their chosen sport.
I understand loving a sport and wanting to play it as much, and as well, as possible. I also remember what it was like when kids had free time to “just be kids” when they did not spend 11 months of a year in athletics.
The move to “specialize” is also a negative, and not just in the book of this writer. Ask any college coach in any sport and they will tell you they far, far prefer an athlete who has been exposed to a variety of sports, to a range of coaches, to differing sets of teammates.
A quite small percentage of these athletes will ever play at the collegiate level. Even fewer will play at the large-school level. Statistically speaking, almost none will ever earn a dime playing professionally.
In no way do I wish to see declining numbers of our youth in sports. The benefits of playing a sport — team or individual — so outweigh any negatives that it does not bear comparison.
That said, it would be nice if some of these youngsters were allowed by mom and dad to be kids again.
Another disturbing trend? The Flop.
From the NBA down, players have taken to theatrical losses of balance and to dramatic physical reactions by the slightest (sometimes perceived) moment of physical contact.
The Perry boys basketball team comes to mind, as all season long I witnessed Bluejay players — Shammond Ivory in particular — be whistled for bogus offensive fouls.
To be fair, Ivory deserved a healthy chunk of those calls, but many — I would say, after watching 21 of 24 games live and all of them on DVD — roughly one-third were flat out poor calls by the referees.
Through all the years I have been covering the preps this year ranks at the top for the poorest basketball officiating I can remember.
The crews working the Perry at Bondurant-Farrar game and at the Perry at Winterset game (particularly the girls game) and girls playoff game with Winterset missed calls repeatedly — and not just calls that went against Perry. In each instance both teams were hurt by the officiating dictating the action and not the players.
And for those of you who will know what I am referencing: No. 50 tripped over Ivory’s feet and traveled: he was not even touched. And Scott James did not commit his fifth foul: He was, as is clearly visible, three feet from the play.