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Dave is right - play as many sports as you can
Thank you Dave Dickenson, thank you. You are my hero.
Dickenson has already been a hero to many around Montana after guiding Great Falls CMR to back-to-back State AA football championships and the University of Montana to the I-AA national championship in 1995.
He has carried the high expectations of an entire state exceptionally well all through his high school, college and professional football career.
Name another pro athlete where the population of his or her home state feels the relationship can be on a first-name basis? Dickenson is used to the applause.
Last week, he made a statement that should make every parent of a young athlete stand up and cheer again.
Speaking at a sports banquet in Missoula, Dickenson urged athletes to sample the sports world rather than concentrating on just one athletic endeavor.
“Play as many sports as you can,” Dickenson said. “Play as much as you can. Build up some memories. Build up some friendships.”
I totally agree.
Teenage - or younger - athletes should not have the pressure of choosing a single sport. Maybe later on, when it becomes more obvious of the talent, then a decision could be made.
Still just maybe.
In this technological age, high school athletes are rarely overlooked. If Oklahoma football can find a kicker in Malta, the University of Texas can find a tennis player in Missoula and with Pac-10 schools regularly keeping an eye on Montana basketball, not much is missed.
If you are good enough, they will find you.
But that decision to specialize goes back even further.
How many junior-high age standouts even advance to the varsity level during high school? The playing fields and courts are littered with athletes who were bigger, faster and stronger than everybody else at the age of 13, only to veer off in another direction a few years later.
Still, for whatever reason, we continue to hear stories of coaches demanding young athletes to drop all their other activities and other sports.
Those people should be banned from coaching youth sports.
Coaches are educators. They are there to teach their particular sport to the best of their ability.
They should not, ever, force a 13-year-old to make a life-changing decision the young athlete might regret long after they are done playing.
The pressure to attend camps or play year-round is tremendous. Some high school coaches like to dangle that carrot stick of “varsity playing time” to coerce a decision.
There is just one problem with all the singular focus.
We all know the athletic cream always rises to the top.
Don’t tell me a football coach would take a pass on a 6-foot-2, 225-pound quarterback because he didn’t participate in a passing camp in July. Or a basketball coach would turn away a 6-8 player because he opted to participate on a swim team during the summer.
I wholeheartedly agree with Dickenson.
By JOE KUSEK
Of The Gazette Staff
Joe Kusek can be reached at 657-1393 or firstname.lastname@example.org