News Teach thru Sports

Idaho Press Tribune 17 Apr 2001 - Pg 4a

Optimists teach through sports

Brad Hem - IPT

Optimists football league to give guidance to 500 youths

NAMPA -- There are lessons that only competition on the field can teach, coaches say. Those lessons go beyond running, throwing and catching. The most important are things like competition, teamwork, loyalty and dedication.

"They learn the importance of committing to something, what being part of a team means," organizer, coach and parent Kenny Wroten said. "They learn respect for coaches, other players and the officials."

Coach Dave Mudd said he became a father figure for some children whose dads are not around. It is often a relationship that goes beyond the field. "I have a lot of kids who call me to this day and say: ‘Hey, coach, this is bothering me. Can you help?’" Mudd said. For others, Mudd was another adult who showed a sincere interest in them.

Last fall, about 250 boys and girls ranging in age from 7 through 12 played on 10 teams. Wroten said the group expects the league to double in size this fall. They are planning 19 football teams, each complete with its own cheerleading squad.

Sportsmanship is a critical lesson for youngsters, Mudd said. Young people will not always win in life as they grow older, so it is important for them to learn how to be gracious losers. He watched his own children learn those lessons. The team became an important thing to them, and they were dedicated to not disappointing their teammates. He said they also learned to work hard for a common goal.

Reprinted by permission of Idaho Press Tribune
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