One of the hardest nights for me as a parent was Senior Night. The night they play their final varsity game at home. It's the one game we all dread.
As a coach, I always liked to play all musings one final time. I also liked to have their parents introduced and have them walk onto the floor and acknowledged, too.
It's the one night when I always made sure to play all my seniors. I feel it's something they earned. Because they've practiced and been a part of the team for four years, I feel it's the least I could do.
This time of year, we're seeing the basketball season hit the end of its schedule and senior nights are everywhere. It makes the games go longer, but I actually enjoy them.
The only one I didn't like was a couple of years ago. We had a girl who played hard for four years. She never missed a game or practice, but she only played so we had enough players on the team. So more or less, she was a body for practice.
What I didn't like was that even though she was announced along with her parents, she never got into the game. It was a game we lost by 30 points. In my mind she earned the chance to play. She worked hard, even though she never played in more than one or two games all season long.
Kids today have so many other things they can do. For them to choose to stay and practice when they could do other things says a lot to me.
At my high school, we had a player sign to play football with UCLA. He was big (6-foot-4, 245 pounds), strong, fast and mean. He actually scared teams when he ran the ball. He was a tough cookie to crumble.
But, he wasn't a practice player. He'd get hurt early in practice. Come game time on Friday night, he was healed and never missed a minute. My best friend would run his spot all week in practice and he worked hard. Come game time on Friday, he never got in unless it was mop-up time at the end of the game.
To this day, I feel the way I do just because of that reason. I have two rules when I coach. One, if you practice, you play. Two, you're going to be friends with everyone on the team.
My first year as a varsity coach, my team went undefeated. We won a conference title for the first time in our school's history.
One of my first confrontations was when one of my sprinters, an all-conference sprinter the year before, missed two practices. I stuck by my rules and didn't use him in the next game. I was a student then and was only at the school for practice. This was usually before school or right after school.
The day following our contest, which we won, and found us a new sprinter, I went to school after my day of classes. That night when I went to wash uniforms and get things ready for the next day's contest, I was paged and ask to go to the office.
I walked in and there was my principal and the young man, along with his parents. For the next two hours, I was in his office fighting to keep my rules. The principal wanted me to apologize to the young man and his parents. To make a long story short, I finally left. As I walked out, I said, "I have practice at 6 a.m. You are welcome to come and if you work your way back, you'll be our sprinter in the upcoming contest."
Needless to say, he did, and I never had another problem the entire year. To this day, I'm still the same way.
In a time when its easier for kids to stay home and play video games, we have to do everything to keep them active. Once they do, we must take care of them and reward them for their hard work.
One of my first parents asked me out to dinner one day. He told me that there's someone out there who's better than Larry Bird. There's someone out there who can throw a baseball 110 miles per hour.
But somewhere along the line, he didn't get to play and he never went and played again. Don't you be the reason he never plays again.
So, as we go through our senior nights, take another look at what's happening. Stand and honor the young athletes and their parents. They've sure earned it.