No. 1 Nick Saban made some piercing comments about Alabama fans a couple of weeks ago on his show. Saban said, “People were glad we won a game when I got here; now we have to win by I don’t know what. Nobody works harder than these players. Nobody wants to win more than they do, and nobody is more upset than they are when they lose. They are not here simply so that you can be entertained. They are not perfect. They are college students who have to go to class, study and run when they miss study halls. For all the self-absorbed people who cannot look past themselves …”
No. 2 Whoa … I watched that clip of Saban a few times. I am guilty of expecting too much from high school student-athletes. Over the past 22 years, I have followed high school teams across the state in my fundraising business. There have been 0-10 football teams that I have enjoyed working with, and there are plenty of outstanding student-athletes who are not all-stars.
No. 3 I have great admiration for any high school student who dedicates himself or herself to a sport. The multiple-sport athletes are exceptional. They all deserve our support.
No. 4 This past football season was much different than last season. Injuries, COVID-19 and some apathy among players was frustrating. The challenge is to accept everyone where they are at, and not to expect more of an athlete or team than they are capable of performing.
No. 5 The Saban rant reminded me that I should not expect teams and players to entertain me, to give me a good story. I have to accept what the teams and players produce, and I have to find a story in both winning and losing. Judging high school athletes is a slippery slope that is full of unknowns.
No. 6 Fans, and I am also a fan, can expect too much of a high school athlete. High school students deserve generous evaluations by fans. We do not know everything that is going on in games, and we have to give student-athletes the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they are injured, sick, simply made a mistake, etc.
No. 7 I appreciate the opportunity to get to know high school coaches and players. Winning is fun, but losing is not the end of the world. As Grantland Rice wrote, “It is not whether you win or lose, it is how you play the game.”
And Arnold Palmer said, “Winning is not everything, but wanting it is.” Let’s give the kids and coaches the space to be creative and gain confidence, whether they win or lose. It is their game, their performance, their team.