Find A Way Column;By Todd Roehl

I have been to a lot of games in the past three months and have seen many great things as I capture the moments of area athletes in the Ladysmith sport’s pages.

One thing that has been bothering me and has been on my mind has been the way people act at competitions around our area and the northwest.

One thing you have to know about me is I am ultra competitive. I hate to lose, sometimes more than I like winning.

On thing I try and tell myself is that it is about the kids. I have three that are competing. In fact, if it weren’t for my camera, I would probably be guilty of some of the things I see fans yelling at coaches, athletes and referees. In the end, though, I remember two things:

1. It is not about me.

2. I had my moments as an athlete and that these kids deserve theirs.

So that brings me to three major problems we have in sports.

1. 70% of all athletes will quit by the time they turn 13.

2. Good coaches are leaving the sidelines way to early.

3. We are in dire shortage of referees and can’t get them to stay.

Why you ask? It is because of some fans and what they say.

I recently have been following a movement by a coach and teacher from Neceedah, Mark Horbinski, the founder of WON80.

What is Won80?

WON80 is a movement to raise awareness in student-athletes, coaches, parents and spectators about the need to return to positive sportsmanship before we destroy youth, school and community athletic programming. WON80 encourages us to focus on our own behaviors and actions which will in turn allow us to positively impact our teammates, teams, schools, and communities.

Mark wrote a great letter that I want to share with all of you. I hope it makes you think like it made me. It is written from the perspective of a student-athlete about what they hear coming from the stands and how it makes them feel. My kids are the future of sports in our area and I want to see them receive the same lessons and opportunities I did as a kid chasing my passions.

The problem is they might not if I and you don’t do it the right way. Don’t get me wrong, it’s OK to be competitive. But I have to think we need to do something before we continue to watch our sports teams be depleted, our good coaches hanging it up and definitely before we don’t have enough referees to officiate our children as they chase their dreams.

Below is the letter from Mark, it is titled; Dear Fans...... as always, FIND A WAY!

Dear Fans,

I’d like to thank you for taking the time to come to my game last night. It sure was nice to see such a big crowd. I just wish you could have been a little more positive towards me and my teammates. I know you were disappointed that we didn’t win. We were too, but we really did try our best.

It’s true that we made a bunch of mistakes, but we’re still learning and we’re getting better. I know sometimes it might not seem that way to you, but we really are improving. Remember, we’re only teenagers. Quite a few of us aren’t even old enough to drive a car and most of us don’t even shave yet. Please be patient with us because in a few years, if we all stick with it, we have a chance to be pretty good!

The sad part is that we probably all won’t stick with it. I’ve already heard some of the kids talking about quitting this season or not coming out next year. Most of them say it’s too much pressure. One kid said he heard people yelling from the stands that he shouldn’t be allowed on the court because he isn’t good enough.

Another kid was told the only reason he way playing is because of his last name, even though I know for a fact that he worked harder in the off-season than anyone else on the team. Heck, I don’t think anyone should be made to feel bad because he went out for a high school team, tried his best, and wasn’t as good as someone else.

This is where you come in. I’m asking you for your help as someone I look up to; someone I respect. Please continue to come to my games, but be positive. Cheer for me, but not at the expense of my teammates. If you hear someone tearing me, my teammates, or my team down, step in and ask them to stop – even if it is uncomfortable for you. If you are uncomfortable with what you are hearing, just think of how it makes my teammates and I feel.

Remember, you had your chance to play. Now it’s our turn. Thank you for reading my letter.

Respectfully,  a kid playing a game

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