Thursday, October 6, 2005

Fielder’s Choice
By Barry Burleson

Teams need positive words

It’s easy to support a winner.

But really the teams that are losing need more backing.

I covered an 0-10 high school football squad one season years ago. It wasn’t easy, but I tried to put a positive light on each story. I didn’t miss a game.

The coach was helpful, always upbeat and positive, never hanging his head. He always had something good to say about his team after every loss, and that’s what I tried to focus on as a young sports editor.

And his players followed the coach’s example.

The fans of that winless football team dwindled as the season progressed, particularly for the away games.

There were those faithful few - mostly parents of the players - who were at every single game.

On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve covered state championship teams at both the high school and junior college level.

Those seasons are special – for the players, coaches, fans, communities – for everyone involved.

And each game the bleachers were overflowing. You had to get there early to get a seat. If not, folks were perfectly happy lining the fences.

The football teams were the talk of those towns.

There were people going to games who I’d never seen there before.

But you know, I might just remember that 0-10 season and its lessons more.

At this stage of the season, our three high school football teams in the county have three wins among them.

It’s no time to jump ship.

It’s time to get on the boat.

The Byhalia High School Indians, Marshall Academy Patriots and Holly Springs High School Hawks need supporters. They need uplifting. They don’t need naysayers. They don’t need criticism.

The coaches don’t need so-called fans in the stands who think they’re coaches.

The players and the coaches need pats on the back. They need encouragement.

We need to do our part in building up the football programs, not tearing them down.

A lot can be learned from the game of football, whether through wins or losses. Perhaps the greatest lessons come through the losses.

I know for sure that lots of players from that 0-10 team I covered are now successful leaders as adults.

Isn’t that what athletics and the classroom are all about - learning, growing, becoming better human beings?

A few people approached me after last week’s MA game and suggested (jokingly) that I could leave that one out of the paper.

To the contrary, these young men deserve the coverage, win or lose. They deserve their names in the paper and pictures, just like the winners.

These are kids. This isn’t college football or the professional ranks.

They feel the worst after losses. They don’t need negative talk from the public. They need positive words.

I noticed the other night near the end of the Marshall game, there were still a few dedicated fans standing up when the cheerleaders led the cheers.

Two weeks ago I witnessed Holly High’s first victory of the season. The fans on the home side were few, but they were vocal. I could tell, their support was appreciated by the players, who celebrated with their first-year head coach at game’s end.

I’ve been to Byhalia, too. Their home crowds are small but they display that Indian spirit.

Marshall County football fans, I think, can do better.

The Indians, Patriots and Hawks need you now more than ever.

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