Despite circumstances, lessons from athletic participation endure

Karissa Niehoff, Executive Director of the NFSHSA

Column by Karissa Niehoff, Executive Director of the National Federation of State High School Associations and Bernard Childress, Executive Director of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association.

Have you ever wondered what life would be like without sports?   

Bernard Childress, Executive Director TSSAA

Now we know. And it isn’t fun. No NCAA basketball tournament. No traditional Major League Baseball Opening Days. No professional basketball or hockey playoffs. No Little League or youth soccer. The Summer Olympics have been delayed for at least a year. And the list of community cancellations and postponements is nearly endless. 

If you’re a high school sports fan, the disappointment runs even deeper, and it strikes much closer to home. The interruption of school has played havoc with the spring sports season here in Tennessee. Months of expectation and intense training appear to have been wasted for hundreds of high school sports teams. And depending where you live, the dream of scoring a decisive victory over an archrival or competing for a state championship has either been put on hold or permanently surrendered.

It’s “wait ‘til next year” for freshmen, sophomores and juniors. But for most of the high school seniors who participate in a spring sport, this is more than a lost season. It’s the end of an active sports career. The NCAA estimates that, depending on the sport, only about three percent of all high school athletes go on to play a sport in college.

The senior first baseman who picked up his first bat when he was five years old will never have the opportunity to swing at an 82 mile an hour fastball again. The champion runner who has diligently trained to shatter the high school state record may never compete in the 800 again. The young woman who was elected captain of her tennis team will never know how deep into the tournament her squad could have gone.

But here’s what will happen, and it’s significant. That same first baseman has learned that baseball is about far more than trying to hit a ball with a stick; it’s about a group of young men from vastly different backgrounds coming together as a team. The sprinter has discovered that if a person has enough determination, barriers once thought impossible can be broken. And the captain of the tennis team will take the leadership skills she’s learned as a student-athlete and apply them to everything she does for the rest of her life.

Their seasons—indeed, their athletic careers—may be over, but the character those senior athletes have developed because they participated in education-based high school sports lives on. It will encourage, guide and positively influence communities here in Tennessee for the next generation and beyond.   

High school seniors, thank you for the contribution you have made to your team, your school and your community. And thank you for the shared sacrifice you are making right now.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” To those TSSAA student-athletes who graduate this spring, you may have lost your senior sports season, but you have gained both intelligence and character because you participated in high school athletics. Best wishes for continued growth and success.

About Brad Jones

Brad is the Owner/Operator of BBB TV 12, and has been with the company since August of 1996. Brad is a 1987 graduate of Coalfield High School and a 1995 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Communications. He won the 1995 broadcast production student of the year award. Brad worked at Shop at Home, Inc. a home shopping network that was located in Knoxville, TN from 1993 - 1995 and then at Via TV (RSTV, Inc.) from 1995 - 1996. After some freelance work in Nashville, Brad joined the BBB Communications staff in August of 1996. A short stint at WVLT TV as a news photographer was in 2001, but he continued to work at BBB TV as well. Brad is married to Nicole Jenkins Jones, a 1990 graduate of Oak Ridge High School, who works at Oak Ridge Gastroenterology and Associates in Oak Ridge. They have 3 kids, Trevor Bogard, 25, Chandler 21, and Naomi 11. On December 12, 2013 they welcomed their first grandchild, Carter Ryan Bogard. Brad is also the assistant boys basketball coach at Coalfield High School for the past 9 years. In 2013-14 the Yellow Jackets won their first district title since 1991 and just the 4th in school history.

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