Tahlequah Daily Press

August 12, 2013

Friday nights, and making a difference


TAHLEQUAH — It’s just a few weeks away now – the favorite time of year for many Cherokee County residents. Of course, we’re talking about football season.

Many area residents are stocking up on their orange or crimson apparel – and rarely both colors! – in preparation for the OU Sooners and the OSU Cowboys to take the field. And while loyalties may be divided when it comes to the two big state universities, most folks around these parts know that wearing the green for the RiverHawks is a given.

In Oklahoma, though, Friday nights have always been a big deal, and not just because they’re ushering in the weekend.

High school football always brings out  legions of fans, and in Cherokee County, we have four teams to support: the Tahlequah Tigers, Keys Cougars, Sequoyah Indians and Hulbert Riders. And it’s not unusual for families to be rooting for two or three of these teams at a time.

While football and other sports often displace the more important academic endeavors from their well-deserved spotlight, they nevertheless hold an important place in secondary education. Many young people would have no interest in school if they couldn’t enjoy an outlet in athletics. For them, sports could make a difference between finishing their education or dropping out altogether.

It’s incumbent upon us as parents and community members to ensure that all our young people – not just the brightest ones – get high school diplomas. In todays leaner but more highly-skilled workforce, there’s simply no place for a dropout. In fact, a college degree or post-secondary vocational training is almost always a requirement.

When it comes to athletics, parents often make the mistake of expecting their children to be standouts, destined to sign letters of intent for prestigious universities and then move into the professional arena.

 The chances of this happening are marginally better than winning the lottery. Athletics at the high school level should be fun and challenging; an avenue to better fitness; and a way to promote working as a team. Athletic careers should not be the ultimate goal, except in a handful of exceptional cases.

Friday night football games also offer a chance for other students to shine. The THS Orange Express this week unveiled what promises to be a thrilling halftime show, with around 125 musicians set to strut their stuff. Some of these kids may go on to related careers.

And there are the cheerleaders, pom squad, and the multitude of other students who will be in the bleachers, in solidarity with their classmates.

For many youngsters, these are among the best times of their lives, and that’s as it should be. But they should enjoy these few years with the understanding that this is only one tiny part of who they are, and without pressure from parents who are trying to live vicariously through their offspring.

So to the fans: Get out your sweatshirts, stadium chairs and blankets, get your minds in the right place, and let’s support our kids this season – regardless of whether they have winning seasons. Your upbeat attitude will make all the difference – if not on the scoreboard, then in their futures.