I know you're busy, and this may seem last minute, but we reporters, well, we like to push those deadlines.
I am hoping you can grant a few wishes for those associated with, participating in or making rules that affect high school sports.
These gifts can't be found under a tree, so here's hoping each of these groups will find in their hearts and minds the ability to make these wishes a reality.
Fans: The ability to be positive. Just remember what Thumper's mother said, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."
It doesn't exhibit school spirit to yell at the other team's players, fans or coaches. It doesn't show school pride to scream about the refs and how they just can't seem to "call it both ways." It doesn't lift or inspire your team when you get in fights, call names or find ways to chant words meant to sound like curse words. All of it, without exception, only reflects as poorly on your team, your school and your community as it does on you.
Coaches: The understanding that your players hang on your every word. They watch you, they hear you and they take to heart what you tell them. When you exhibit no self-control, they follow your lead. When you shake hands and congratulate an opponent who just broke your heart, they follow your example. You may never know the impact you will have on their lives. You cannot be too positive with them.
Club Coaches: The realization that it is good for teenagers to play more than one sport and that high school sports will enrich their lives long after they have finished playing the games. Encourage this, and especially their participation in high school sports. It is an environment that will only make them better leaders. Do not take their childhood from them because you want to earn a regional or national title.
Parents: The perspective and ability to allow your children to have their moment. Keep in mind that their moment may not be what you believe it should be. Don't tell them what they did wrong or run down their teammates and coaches. Don't dissect the game or give them advice on how "if they'd just moved to the left, the other team wouldn't have scored that game winning goal." Be their parents. All they want from you is love, love and more love.
Officials: The ability to officiate and teach at the same time. I saw an official do this just last week. He gave warnings, explained a hand check and talked to the girls throughout the very physical contest. Don't be unapproachable; don't be arrogant. You took this job, which we know barely covers the cost of your uniforms, because you love the kids, you love the game. We appreciate it so much more when you show up without the chip on your shoulder. We are on your side.
UHSAA: A transfer rule that they can enforce so they can spend more time dealing with the ever developing issues surrounding prep sports. It wasn't the UHSAA that created open enrollment and then said students couldn't transfer for athletic reasons, but they get to deal with the practical problems created by these conflicting ideas. The problem really is that they are both critical ideals that we should respect. But that may mean following the NCAA's lead and allowing students to go anywhere on first entry and then sitting out a year (at least on varsity teams) after that. The truth is there are too many cheaters and, without realistic enforcement, the rules will only affect the honest or the dumb.
Legislature: An understanding of what the Utah High School Activities Association does. This will enable them to support the organization that has for nearly 100 years administered high school sports safely, economically and effectively. Extra curricular activities, especially sports, are a privilege not a right. Do your job and allow the UHSAA to do theirs. Instead of trying to tell them what to do, work with them on those critical issues. Exhibit the teamwork and respect that we so sincerely hope our children learn from high school athletics.
Administrators: The ability to find ways for every student to participate in some kind of extra curricular program. Hire coaches who understand they are teachers first, competitors second. Don't allow your fans to yell personal insults at anyone in the gym. Remember that what is important to you will become important to your staff.
Superintendents: A way to save money without taking games from the state's smallest schools. Why punish the very schools and teams who are already doing some of the most creative things to save money while offering their students as many opportunities as those in bigger schools enjoy.
And finally, A Heart-felt Thank You to the scorekeepers, the janitors, the groundskeepers, the bus drivers and the business men and women who make it possible, even more enriching, for thousands of high school students to have experiences that will make them better human beings.