Praise Should Be Distributed Evenly
In the world of high school sports, parents, friends, coaches, cheerleaders and the press usually hand out the biggest and loudest praise to the best players. That’s fair, since they’re leading the team to wins, and that’s how we measure success.
What needs to be asked is the role prep sports has for those with lesser skills because, it goes without saying, they’re going to be overlooked, if not by their parents, then by everyone else.
For nearly every player, high school is their Mount Everest, since it’s just a small hand full who are good enough to play college ball, and even fewer who can make a dollar at the next level.
It seems that high school, even with the goal of winning, should be fun for everyone, including the kid deep on the bench, or the guy batting cleanup.
It’s really nice when a youngster that’s been deemed not quite good enough to start, comes in and makes a crucial basket that helps win the game, or a bench-warmer who comes off the pine and delivers a key hit.
That’s why high school is such a special time. You get to play four years, if you’re lucky, and even if you don’t have the necessary tools to start, if you’re good enough to make a team and actually participate, it’s something they’ll never forget.
It’s cool when a star player is also a nice person. More than a decade ago, I came upon one such athlete.
Fernando Rios was a gifted center fielder for Glendale High. A hard-worker, Rios would get up before the sun and make his way to the batting cage. Once there, he’d take hundreds of hacks, hoping to perfect his already amazing swing.
By the time he was a junior, major league scouts were flocking to watch his games and every one that I spoke to said he was humble, charming and that he always deflected credit to his teammates.
Rios understood that they were part of the team. This was a small but important gesture, and it had to make them feel good because they were being included.
I interviewed him once after an outstanding outing. Quiet and shy, instead of talking about how well he hit the ball, he spoke about his flaws. Now who does that? I was surprised.
When Rios – a powerful right-handed batter with a strong throwing arm – began his senior season, it was clear that he was going to be drafted.
When the season concluded and Rios, who hailed from Mexico, had posted staggering numbers, the Cincinnati Reds selected him. He would spend several seasons playing in the minor leagues but never rising to the big-league level.
Rios was a terrific high school player with exceptional skill sets and a perfect attitude. He understood what high school sports is all about. There should be more like him.