What Missy Franklin doesn’t teach us about sports | VailDaily.com

What Missy Franklin doesn’t teach us about sports

Chris Freud
Vail, CO Colorado

Last school year, the Colorado High School Activities Association started sending out media advisories for the state swimming meet.

This has never happened … ever. Swimming is not huge in this state, and certainly not on the scale of football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling or track and field, all of whose finals are held in big arenas or stadiums. Normally, all CHSAA would have to do for state swimming is set up a table to collect a few bucks worth admissions.

Regis had a pretty solid junior in Missy Franklin, who won some state titles and has made some noise in London so far at the Olympics. And state swimming turned into a zoo.

This is a good starting point for our local high schools which begin practices with the Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley, Vail Christian and Vail Mountain golf teams on Monday.

Not to put a damper on the upcoming year – to the contrary I’m quite excited – but there is no Missy Franklin among the Huskies, the Devils, the Saints or Gore Rangers, and Madama Franklin has absolutely nothing to do with the mission of high school sports.

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High school sports in Eagle County are not a springboard to the Olympics. Let’s face it, if we’re going to churn out any Olympians, it’s going to be in snowsports, and if you’re racing for your high school team, you’re not good enough to be an Olympian. Sarah Schleper turned 19 on the day of her first Olympic race in Nagano, Japan. Lindsey (nee Kildow) Vonn was 17 at the 2002 Olympics. (And we’re not forgetting Toby Dawson, moguls, or Will Daly, crew, but those aren’t CHSAA sports.)

We may have a few student-athletes who go Division I for college. It’s a rarity, but you don’t have to be sports fan to know it. It’s something akin to going to the state swimming meet and seeing Franklin and everyone else in the field. Stevie Wonder could have seen that Franklin was head and shoulders above the rest.

When Eagle Valley’s Alex Lasse, who starts this fall at Rutgers, hit the ball for the Devils, it made a different sound. (The same goes for the 2006 Battle Mountain spikers, who won state.) If you watched Battle Mountain’s Big Three of Jonny Stevens, Tony Crisofulli and John O’Neill run, you saw that different gear. And yep, Brad and Chris Gamble, Kim Smith and Ashley Rohweder all had “it.”

These are the select few.

High school sports’ first mission is to be an extension of the classroom. They teach skills like accountability and discipline which the students will hopefully take into their college years and beyond.

It takes hard work to make a varsity and it’s even harder to balance school work, practices, games and travel. (The last item on this list is whopper in these parts.) This is good stuff to be learning when you’re a teenager. Life is a balancing act.

In sports, a teenager learns his or her actions have consequences. This can be as simple as not making a block, which leads to your quarterback or running back getting clobbered. (Said quarterback or running back will likely let you know his displeasure at your mistake. It’s called feedback.)

It’s also about making correct decisions – staying up on one’s class work to remain eligible, although, hopefully, a student-athlete is doing more than squeaking by. (Usually, student-athletes have better grades when they are competing because they do have to budget their time.)

There’s staying on the straight and narrow. I don’t like to see it, but it happens every year. I don’t condone it, but it’s a powerful lesson. If you’re consuming alcohol or smoking something, you’re suspended. From watching athletes having to watch their teammates, that concept gets hammered home quickly.

Mistakes, physical and mental, on or off the field, will happen. Everybody’s human. But how do you respond?

Ideally a lot of this hard work translates into wins, and the lesson that hard work produces results. It’s wonderful to watch that happen, but not everyone’s a league champ, much less a state titlist. How do you deal with that?

It’s got to be a while ago – at least 10 years – when I was watching a memorable soccer game. The goalie totally whiffed on an easy save and his team lost the game. He was understandably devastated. His teammates, offering words of encouragement, came by and got him off the ground and saw him through that experience.

Lessons like that are more valuable than gold medals – sorry, Missy, hope you win more medals this week. If we, as a community, see our student-athletes learning these lessons in victory and/or defeat, 2012-13 will have been a great year.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.

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