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Give the kids a Christmas break

Don't take sports so seriously
by: Self-portrait Sports Editor John Brewington

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the gym, the bleachers were falling, awaiting a trim.

Nah, I don't feel like writing a paroday of the old Christmas poem.

By the way, Scappoose high is getting new bleachers. It seems the old ones were getting a little rickety and they were having trouble getting them to compress. They were busy at work replacing them this week, and the job should be done by the time the holiday break is over.

The Christmas break this year seems longer than normal, but they usually run two weeks. If you count Thanksgiving, winter sports teams have two breaks.

Many youngsters in Scappoose and St. Helens prep sports are two- and three-sport athletes. I like to see that. The trend at many larger schools is for some of the best athletes to only play one sport during the school year.

I was having a talk with a longtime coach about it. It's a real problem, particularly for very large schools. and #8200;Some of their very best athletes only do one sport during the year.

I'm not really neutral on the subject. and #8200;I think kids should participate in as many sports as they can. Call it cross-training.

There was a time when the younger kids only officially played sports in season. Football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring. Unofficially, we played different sports all the time. We'd often have neighborhood battles in one sport or another. We'd all ride our bikes to a mutally agreed site and have a friendly contest. Sometimes we wouldn't have enough kids for full teams so we'd divide it up evenly and make up rules to adjust. We'd call our own fouls, sometimes argue a bit, but it always got settled. It was a seemingly idyllic and innocent time. We'd also swim at some friend's house on the lake and if you were lucky you might even get to water ski. Some of us got to go snow skiing, and some summers they'd let the kids on the local 9-hole golf course on Mondays. We'd hack the ball around, try ridiculous shots and just have a good time. We'd play badminton, but most of us didn't really play tennis. We'd go to the skating rink some nights and fall all over the place.

There was organized competition, but nobody did just one thing year round. Few of us even thought about something like a scholarship. We'd mimic athletes like Mickey Mantle or Roger Maris. One of the highlights of my youth was getting the mumps. No I didn't like being sick, but I did get to stay home during the 1969 World Series and watched Bill and #8200;Mazeroski hit a game-winning home run.

Before I start sounding like 'A Christmas Story,' the point I was trying to make was that kids need to try a lot of different things. The coach thought so too. They need time to be kids, he said. They need time to find sports they can play after school--golf, tennis, softball, even just jogging.

My daughter ran cross country and track, played basketball, and played softball for many years. She still jogs, but she found a sport she loves--scuba diving. She's been halfway around the planet doing it, and teaches a class at the University of Oregon. It's an avocation.

I've noted before that very few kids every make it to play Division 1 sports. Even fewer ever make it into the pros. Parents sometimes push for kids to do just one sport in a quest for a scholarship. It happens, but in the long run and the grand scheme of things you lose more than you gain. Let the kids have a break this Christmas.