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Matthies Mug

Steve Matthies

Tulelake and Butte Valley already have started their seasons, especially since school begins earlier than most, with a week in September taken up by the annual Tulelake-Butte Valley Fair.

In Oregon, meanwhile, official practices begin Monday.

There have been plenty of conditioning camps and other activities as football players, soccer players, volleyball players and cross country runners begin the grind they hope will lead to potential championships.

If nothing else, a place in the postseason.

There is plenty of opportunity for area young people.

The question often asked is, what value is there in sport?

It is valid.

Championships are great. The goal is to develop team and individual skills to help make them possible.

Over the summer, though, I read a great piece about an athletic director from another state who retired at the end of the 2018-19 school year, where she had the chance to impact the lives of the young people around her.

Her school did not win state titles.

There were a few league crowns along the way, but not many.

For someone who had limited opportunities to be an athletic during her high school career, she offered some great insight into the value of high school athletics.

“Whenever I meet with parents and athletes at the start of the season, I tell them our job is to get your kid to graduate,” she said. “That’s our No. 1 job. Everything else is a bonus.”

The same could be said of debate coaches, band instructors, choir leaders and others who are supposed to help the young people in their drive to develop skills like teamwork, understanding hard work, learning carry-over value from athletics to academics.

The list could go on.

“I think the most important thing I got out of coaching (which she did in several sports) were the relationships,” she said.

“I can’t remember what my win-loss records were, but I do remember kids I worked with, how much they were struggling and the encouragement I gave them to get better. Those are the memories that stay with you.

“We’re teaching life lessons through sports,” she told the columnist who chronicled her career.

“Sportsmanship, developing character. When they leave (her school), we hope they’ll be good members of the community.”

Well spoken words.

She has empathy for those young people who do not have the financial where-with-all to participate in club sports outside the school seasons.

State activity associations struggle with that, too.

Places like Klamath Falls and Lakeview battle that war all the time. No one size fits all, as the Oregon School Activities Association has discovered a couple of times.

As a new school year begins, there have been a lot of spectacular people who work with the young people in the 17 high schools this newspaper has the chance to report on. There always are exceptions, but the young people in our area have been blessed with adults they are able to work with.

One only hopes that continues.

The championships are nice, no question about it.

The relationships, however, never can be duplicated. Watching a shy, introvert discover a skill he/she never thought possible before is a reward money cannot replicate.

As I move forward, I know I have seen that happen — often.

The smile is something one never forgets.

Coaches, be the kind of individuals who help young people develop life skills, the ability to work hard, learn, grow and become the kind of people we need in our world.

Athletes, listen, attempt new things and discover the individual you were meant to be. If college sports call, enjoy the ride. More importantly, discover the skills that can make you a doctor, lawyer, chef, painter, plumber of whatever passion you discover.

Have a great year.

Steve Matthies is Herald and News sports editor emeritus. He can be reached at 541-885-4411, or at smatthies@heraldandnews.com.