Timeout: Sticking around and being team player is worth your while

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This one goes out to all the high school athletes who might never start a varsity game — or who think about giving up and getting a part-time job.

Twenty years from now, it won’t matter that you only played an entire half of a varsity football or basketball.

Kudos to any kid for showing up for practices under a burning August sun. Who cares if you had the best seat on the bench and saw five minutes of action your senior year?

Right now, you are back practicing for another high school season and among friends. Cut your hours at work and forget about throwing money at reviving a rusting 1966 Volkswagen Beetle.

Enjoy! You only pass this way once and you will soon be working for the rest of your life after college.

So you kept the book for your grateful baseball coach while waiting in the wings for your chance at the plate. You made a commitment, and when you apply to colleges and universities, they will see you were involved outside the classroom. You weren’t some bump on a log, muddling through your high school career.

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There are hundreds of great high school coaches handing out life lessons for the price of your obligation to play for the team. Many of them are teachers who also demand excellence from their students in the classroom.

Academics and extracurricular activities go hand-in-hand and they just might be your ticket to a fine university.

Spruce Mountain pitcher Jordy Daigle received a full boat to Harvard University for his academic exploits in the classroom. But you can bet it didn’t hurt that the Spruce valedictorian, who is heading to Cambridge, played basketball and baseball and participated in other activities.

“Those things you learn on the court or on the field — dealing with adversity,” Jordan said in a recent interview. “I think sports has prepared me for when you don’t feel like doing homework or it’s like having a bad grade or bad game.

“You just have to shake it off and move on. I really didn’t deal with failure in the academic sense. Giving up six runs in a baseball game is a tough thing to deal with.”

Attending public school and participating in extracurricular activities is a privilege for all high school students.

But you had the temerity to stick it out, knowing all along that you would never be the team’s go-to quarterback or soccer goalie.

Nobody wants to stand there on the sidelines, watching the exciting events that transpire on the court or field.

But you really do matter and are an important member of the team that might cop a state title this season.

Walking away from a high school team would be a thoughtless move on your part.

Team sports are all about numbers, and a team is only as good its depth. If a club has a strong nucleus, coupled with experience, it should go further in a season. Star athletes will get injured and that’s when the player waiting in the wings is called upon to fill the void.

Many high school teams lack depth, and that is a big headache for coaches. It is “all hands on deck” for track and ski teams, where each individual success is crucial to the overall team score.

Your contribution during practices is important. You drive your teammates to be successful and your positive attitude helps ward off any signs of dissension.

And you are part of a team that pulls you away from a computer screen or smart phone — at least for a couple of hours.

Mt. Blue graduate Dustin Ireland was a star quarterback for the Cougars and went on to play football for the United States Air Force Academy. After graduating from the academy, the Fitzpatrick Trophy winner became a fighter pilot who flies the A-10 (Warthog) Thunderbolt II — an enemy tank-killing machine.

Playing sports for Mt. Blue was a privilege for him, and the lessons he learned from being a three-sport athlete served him well in combat and during his military career.

Listen to what this lieutenant colonel had to say:

“As I look back, though, it’s not so much the sports that we played as it was the friends and bonds that we formed on the field and court,” Ireland said in a recent interview. “It comes down to training and preparation.

“When someone finds themselves in a high-stress situation, they pull from experience and training. Like a lot of examples of stress we all see in life, I compartmentalize and focus on the task at hand. To get caught up in the moment of some of these situations would be overwhelming. But if a person focuses on what they need to get done, all the fear and uncertainty melts away.

“Certainly the framework of sports supports this concept. Participating in organized sports growing up created small pockets of similar situations of stress and uncertainty. As I experienced sports growing up, each stressful moment became a memory and learning point for success the next time around.”

U.S. gymnast and gold medalist Mary Lou Retton put it this way: “Trophies gather dust; memories last forever.”

So stick around, enjoy your teammates, contribute and be grateful you are part of the team.

That’s what really matters as teams across the Pine Tree State as high schools fall into a new season.

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