John F. Russell: It's how they played the game

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So often, the success of a high school sports program is weighed by the number of wins and losses a team records, or the league titles and state titles a team wins.

As a community, we place the same pressures on high school kids that we would on a professional team playing in the National Football League, Major League Baseball or the National Hockey League -- if we actually had a National Hockey League.

We often forget that for high school athletes, the soccer field, football field or gymnasium is as much a classroom as a place for competition.

It's where young athletes learn how to work together with teammates, respect their opponents on and off the playing field and what is truly important in life. They also learn how to win with dignity and swallow a tough loss with pride.

As the fall high school season draws to a close, we can judge teams based on how many games they won or lost. But the real test of how successful a program really is will be felt years from now, as the young athletes become adults.

The lessons they learn will be apparent in the way they treat their co-workers, pursue their goals and even how they present themselves in college or adult recreational leagues years from now.

This year, several Steamboat teams have been put to the test. Maybe none has faced more adversity than the Steamboat soccer team, which was shut out in its final home game last Thursday.

It's not the norm for the soccer program, which usually is preparing to enter the playoffs in late October. There will be no playoffs this year, but that doesn't mean coach Rob Bohlmann and his players didn't try. The players gave it their all in games and worked hard in practices. But sometimes in sports, and in life, hard work doesn't always lead to a big payoff.

Right now, I'm sure the players are disappointed. But they can take solace in knowing that a year or two from now, nobody will remember the team's final record or whether they made the playoffs.

But, with hope, the players will remember the lessons they learned this season on the field. And the thing we will remember is how they acted in the face of victory and defeat. We will remember how individual players kept working against the odds, despite the fact that they were not winning on the field.

Yes, it's true that every small community wants to see its high school teams be successful

But in the end, high school sports are not about winning or losing. They are about building character, representing our community no matter what our team's record is, and how young athletes in our community play the game.

To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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