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Being good sports

The leaves are still green, the evenings don't quite have that cool snap to them yet, but the spirit is here already, an undercurrent of excitement that brings out the old school colors. Football season has arrived. Tonight, Straughn and Pleasant Home keep all of the excitement in the area as they face off for the opening game of the season. Tomorrow AHS, Red Level and Opp have their openers.

But by the time the first ball is snapped, many, many hours of work will have gone into building the teams - players, cheerleaders, band, boosters, parents, coaches, teachers… All deserve recognition.

There is a movement to remove team sports from the public school system on the grounds that it breeds too much competition, that it drains money from other programs, that it benefits only a few select students. There is some validity to these points, but we believe the benefits - for all - far outweigh the negative factors.

Healthy competition is good, it can foster pride in school, community and self. It teaches valuable lessons about later competitions - how to win them, and, what is more important - how to lose graciously and learn from mistakes.

Many sports programs bring money in to school clubs that might otherwise have trouble raising it. By working concessions stands, pre-game sales and other sports-related activities, they are learning marketing skills, money management, budgeting and other skills that will be used later in life.

Football games provide an open, chaperoned, but not necessarily over-supervised, social meeting ground for our youth, where they learn the dynamic of social gathering and simply get together and have fun., Each game is a homecoming of sorts, with old classmates meeting again and reviving their own gridiron glory days.

True, as with everything in life, things can be taken too far. There can be unhealthy competition, too much money siphoned away from academics, and drunken fights in the high school parking lot. But moderation is one of those important lessons that our young people need to learn, and it is one of those lessons that must be learned hands on.

Keep the sports, and keep the opportunities for learning there.

In the meantime, go to the games, support the teams, and begin the lessons by setting the best example you can of maturity, moderation, and good sportsmanship.