Lessons not always steretypical

December 17, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

It's amazing how stereotypes continue to shape American thought.

Lawyers and business CEOs are viewed as unethical. Blondes are considered unintelligent. Sportswriters are immediately considered overweight loudmouths who can't play or don't do it well.

All right, so one out of three isn't bad (You pick which one).

One label that has popped up recently, though, is most athletes are wannabe students. They have very little academic drive. And meanwhile, their coaches are nothing more than overgrown whistle-tooters who have to be connected with sports because they don't have the brainpower for anything else.

OK, that might be an exaggeration, but the recent letter to The Herald-Mail against a football stadium for North Hagerstown questioned the need for scholastic athletics. The reasoning was school is for education, which isn't promoted by athletics. It keeps children who don't want to learn in school and ruins the educational process and quality.


Sports are for fun. Youth leagues should be sufficient to fill that role while eliminating the need for stadiums, bleachers and concession stands along with the comments of ill will which come from them.

Such thoughts only strengthen athletic stereotypes.

Truth be known, many young adults consider a good coach the third most influencial person in their life, next to their parents.

The most successful coaches have a plan for their teams which range outside of just winning games. The fact is, wins only strengthen the lessons.

In many cases, wins are just athletics ways of giving A's.

Two of the best examples of "big picture" coaching are two of the more successful "teachers" - Middletown football coach Tim Ambrose and Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen.

In two days' time, each admitted that victories are low on their ladder of priorities.

"I told them that this game isn't about me," Ambrose said after the Knights lost the Maryland Class 2A crown. "It's not about what I want. I coach you guys for other reasons. Sure, I want to go out and win, win championships, but I'm in this business for other reasons.

"This will hurt, but it can't hurt for long. You have to go forward. If you are going to go for pity, go ahead and get in a corner out of the way."

Friedgen carries a similar feeling.

"This year, a lot of people jumped ship on us early, but this team hung together to win 10 games. That's where the satisfaction comes from ... guiding players though it," Friedgen said. "It's things like that kids take on to other things in their life.

"I'm not about mediocrity. The reason I'm a pain in the butt about going to class is I want you to be special in life, not just on the football field. I want you to be special. ... I believe the harder you work, the better you get."

Recreational sports have their purpose, but many times they miss out on the true lesson that athletics bring - live lessons that compliment book lessons.

Many coaches, including the likes of Dwight Scott, Kevin Murphy, Greg Slick, Bob Starkey and Mike Spinnler have allowed students with special talents express themselves.

Successfully ... Maybe we should stereotype that.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday . He can be reached at 301-733-5131, Ext. 2310 or by e-mail at

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