There are topics that often do not receive the kind of press they deserve.
My goal for the next few minutes is to bring attention and shine the spotlight on one that I feel is extremely underrated and overlooked.
Prep athletes work hard. Harder than we realize.
Yes, I played sports and I was an athlete, although no one would guess it by looking at me now. I’ve been where these modern-day athletes are now. And even before my time, my stepfather shared with me what I considered to be horror stories of the grueling practices and workouts he and his teammates endured every season at Meridian High School.
Blame it on global warming, but the heat seems to become more of a problem each year when it comes to fall sports.
For instance, as Corinth Cross Country Boys Head Coach Luke Hatcher was describing the conditions his kids worked out and ran in during the middle of the summer – as they prepared for a tough racing season – he used the word “unbearable” to describe the weather the young athletes had to tolerate most of the time just to make it to the first meet in what is referred to as “running shape”.
As far as I’m concerned, I never was that committed to any sport to subject my body to what most of us would consider an unthinkable act.
However, that is the kind of dedication and commitment these kids have as they work towards the ultimate goal of being the best and winning things such as division and state titles.
Over the years, I couldn’t begin to say how many parents of high school athletes, and even everyday fans that have no dogs in the race but enjoy the race anyway, I’ve had conversations with about this very subject. And without fail, they all come to the general consensus that each prep athlete needs to be commended for their hard work and thanked for the performances they leave on the track or the field.
No doubt about it, the Daily Corinthian coverage area is blessed to have some of the top sports programs in the state. It’s likely no stretch to say that the northeast Mississippi area has become a cross-country stronghold. We’re already known as a basketball hotbed and football is in the same boat as Corinth and Biggersville have participated in the past two state championship games (the Warriors won the 4A title in 2019 while the Lions should have last year in 1A).
I challenge any reader to find a local high school athlete and just ask them what their training regimen is as well as why they put themselves through all the blood, sweat and tears. Chances are there might be one or more such young people in either your immediate or extended family. Many parents already are aware of the depths these youth go to in order to get into game shape.
Old-timers will be familiar with the way things were back in the day … oh, say in the 1950s and ’60s ... and are probably nodding their heads in the yes direction when it comes to how I have described the modern day athlete and what they absorb.
If there’s any doubt in a reader’s mind of just how tough it was under certain coaches back in the middle 1900s, I challenge those individuals to catch the documentary “The Book Of Manning”, released in 2013. In the early stages of the two-hour feature, with actor John Goodman narrating, Archie Manning describes in detail what freshman practice was like at Ole Miss under Coach Wobble Davidson. Manning confessed to almost quitting due to the strenuously demanding nature of the freshman coach and what he expected out of his players, all for the singular purpose of preparing them for a rough and tumble season on the gridiron and a promotion to the varsity.
At one juncture the Ole Miss quarterback legend spoke of a player that appeared to have a broken leg and complained to Davidson that he couldn’t get up. According to Archie, the coach told the player he didn’t see any bones sticking through his pants, eventually instructing some nearby players to tote the injured freshman off the field and into the locker room.
Even Manning himself played with a broken arm in the Rebels bowl game against Auburn that season, his left limb – broken against Houston in Ole Miss’ homecoming game that year – wrapped in a cast to protect it.
In today’s world, many professional athletes sit out with much less severe injuries, and they are paid about 20 times as much as back in the days of Manning.
That’s the point.
When we see modern-day high school, and even middle school, athletes training in all kinds of harsh conditions because they are playing for love of the game, and not for money, we should heap encouragement and praise upon them. Money changes people. Many current professional athletes have become soft and only worried about protecting their bodies so they can maybe earn more cash down the road. Granted, there are also many that play through pain and suffering .. it just seems the numbers are larger in the sit-it-out group.
Two examples of collegiate courage on the gridiron this season are the Ole Miss and Mississippi State signal callers: Matt Corral and Will Rogers.
But especially the Rebels QB who has taken a beating while taking the team on his back the past few weeks. Rogers also suffered an arm injury a few weeks back, coming out of the game for a while. But the record-setting Bulldog sophomore returned and hasn’t missed a beat. He is now among the SEC and national leaders in passing yardage and touchdowns. And Corral hasn’t missed a game while remaining a candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
Corral and Rogers are examples of what I consider true role models for young athletes out there today. There are many others .. all one has to do is look around and read about them.
I hope each of us will give due diligence and give credit where it’s due. Make sure we’re complimenting these prepsters that put their bodies through all kinds of anguish just to be able to excel at the sport they love so much. To them, money isn’t an issue. Maybe one day it will be, but for now, let’s praise the efforts turned in by these marvelous examples of high school athletic talent. They certainly deserve it.
And let us never forget the sacrifices the youth of today make to be the best they can be.
Until next time…