Sports Perspective

Wes Emmert: Advice to all involved as high school season begins (from an article 8/24/2009)

With fall high school sports kicking off the 2009-10 athletic season last Monday, I'm taking today to impart some sage wisdom in an attempt to make it a smooth year for athletes, coaches, and parents. I speak from experience. I have been an athlete, coach, and parent myself and have garnered experience through the years. It's important that all involved understand their different roles.


Athletes, it is your responsibility to prepare yourself for the season. You are to compete honestly with respect for your coaches and fellow teammates. It is your responsibility to support your teammates in the good times as well as the not-so-good times.

You and your teammates WILL make mistakes in the course of a game. That's the nature of athletic competition. In most games, rarely does an offensive and defensive player make a great play on the same play. Big plays and scores are commonly the result of a mistake by a player. The good players bounce right back and get themselves ready for their next opportunity.

Teammates remain supportive and loyal to their teammates. You can have all the talent in the state on your team, but if you don't have "chemistry" or get along with your teammates, it will be an unpleasant year. Complaining about a teammate(s) will only breed a cancer and can tear a team apart.

Athletes, it is your responsibility to know and comply with all MSHSL rules, especially those concerning the use of tobacco and drugs. Mike Tice (former Vikings coach) once counseled his team, prior to an open week, to not "be that guy." Athletes, don't be that guy (or gal) who has to sit out half a season for a rules violation. If you choose to compete in the MSHSL, you are also agreeing to comply with the rules. Know them and follow them.


Coaches, it is your responsibility to coach and teach young athletes the rules, skills, and nuances of your respective sports as well as instilling life lessons along the way. Those life lessons include teamwork, discipline, focus, accountability, and fair play.

It is not about you. Your focus should be on your young charges and improving them as individuals and as athletes. Get to know them as individuals, not just as athletes.

It your responsibility to keep the game fun and in perspective. I know the objective of competition is to win. That's why we keep score. However, it is a game and it is meant to be fun.

Coaches, you never know how you may influence a young athlete and your tutelage may stay with them and inspire them later in life. It is your responsibility to communicate your expectations and policies clearly to your athletes and parents. Be honest with your athletes. Respect your athletes. If you say you are going to do something, follow through and do it.


Parents, it is your role to support your athlete and their team. Understand that coaches are human and are not infallible. They will make mistakes. They will call the wrong play some times. They may have the wrong personnel in the wrong position. Understand that coaches want to win and be successful. They do not error purposely or single out individual athletes. They put in a lot of time on and off the field.

Parents, have realistic expectations for your athlete. Very few athletes make it as a scholarship collegiate athlete at the Division I level.

It is your child's athletic experience, not yours. All conflicts with the athlete and coach should be handled through the athlete, not you. Most conflicts arise over playing time. My first question to an athlete not happy with his/her playing time is; "What have you done over the off-season to improve your skills or physical condition?" Parents as well as athletes need to understand that most coaches attempt to put their best players on the field of play. Athletes are NOT entitled to playing time based on year in school. I believe upperclassmen (juniors and seniors) have the first opportunity to compete for the position, but they are not entitled to it because they are a junior or senior. The best athlete should have the position.

Always be supportive around your athlete and don't be negative around them. If you disagree with a coaching decision, "vent" to your spouse or a close friend and then move on. It is still high school athletics and is a mere "blip" on the radar compared to your athlete's life.

Keep it in perspective. Be thankful that your child is healthy and has the opportunity to compete. Not everyone can be a starter. Remember this, the difference between a starter and regular contributor to the team is one play, the first one.

All high school athletics are meant to be entertainment for the fans and fun for the competitors. If athletes, coaches and parents all attempt to keep it all in perspective, the season will be much smoother.

In my career as an athlete, coach, and parent, I have witnessed last-minute victories as well as heartbreaking losses. I was sure after the losses that the earth had stopped rotating, life as I knew it would cease, and the sun would never come up again. You know what? Life went on and the sun did come up.

Good luck to all athletes competing this year and to the coaches who mentor them. Play hard, play fair, and make good choices off the field.


One of my friends asked "Why do you pay so much money for your kids to do all their sports"? Well I have a confession to make; I don't pay for my kids to do sports. Personally, I couldn't care less about what sport they do.

So, if I am not paying for sports what am I paying for?

  • I pay for those moments when my kids become so tired they want to quit but don't.

  • I pay for those days when my kids come home from school and are "too tired" to go to their practice but they go anyway.

  • I pay for my kids to learn to be disciplined, focused and dedicated.

  • I pay for my kids to learn to work with others and to be good teammates, gracious in defeat and humble in success.

  • I pay for my kids to learn to deal with disappointment, when they don't get that placing or title they'd hoped for, but they still go back week after week giving it their best shot.

  • I pay for my kids to learn to make and accomplish goals.

  • I pay for my kids to respect, not only themselves, but other athletes, officials and coaches.

  • I pay for my kids to learn that it takes hours and hours, years and years of hard work and practice to create a champion and that success does not happen overnight.

  • I pay for my kids to be proud of small achievements, and to work towards long term goals.

  • I pay for the opportunity my kids have and will have to make life-long friendships, create lifelong memories, to be as proud of their achievements as I am.

  • I pay so that my kids can be out on the field or in the gym instead of in front of a screen.

  • I could go on but, to be short, I don't pay for sports; I pay for the opportunities that sports provide my kids to develop attributes that will serve them well throughout their lives and give them the opportunity to bless the lives of others. From what I have seen so far I think it is a great investment!