Grip on Sports: Everyone’s a winner on first day of practice

Thursday: With an apology to my Idaho friends, who have been sweating buckets on the high school fields for more than a week, you can’t say football season is fully underway until the local high schools are all going full bore. That happened yesterday.

The first day is for winners. Everyone believes their team will win, maybe not a state title, but at least a few games, including the all-important one with that high school down the hill or the block or up the way. All the sweat over the summer, all the weights lifted, all the work, it also gives each kid a dream. A dream of donning the uniform they’ve watched for years, of running out on the field, of starting, of starring for their school.

Not everyone can, of course, but on the first day of practice it sure seems like it. That five pounds of muscle that developed over the summer? It’s going to be all the difference when it comes to filling the guard-tackle gap.

That half-step gained with all the speed/explosion exercises? It’s the burst needed to blow by the cornerback down the sideline.

That confidence built by setting personal bests in squat and bench? It’s enough to get you on the all-league team this season.

Such were the thoughts when the horn blew yesterday, signaling the beginning of another season. They all won’t come to fruition, sure, but they were there. And they are needed. It’s such thoughts that keep young athletes going, no matter the sport. High school sports and dreams have always run on parallel tracks and that’s a good thing. No, a great thing.

It’s part of the coping mechanism young men and women have, dealing with one of the toughest times of life. The days in the classroom may drag on for many but the minutes on the field never last long enough. It’s the great high school coach who makes those minutes seem like hours, who builds memories that last a lifetime, who maintains at least some of their players’ dreams even if he or she knows they never will be completely fulfilled.

Friday: The Cougars open 2014 next Thursday at CenturyLink. The crowd numbers are pretty disappointing – the last I saw, only about 25,000 seats had been sold – which might end up being a good thing. How?

The end of the Seattle game. With all the bells and whistles added to Martin Stadium the past couple years, traveling across the state for a home game seems a bit outdated anyway. Yes, CenturyLink is a beautiful facility. Yes, Seattle alums make the trek the other way all the time. And yes, it wasn’t too long ago Martin Stadium emptied out faster than an office at 5 p.m. on a Friday in the second half of a lot of games.

But if only 30,000 or 35,000 folks want to watch the Cougars in Seattle, then keep the game in Pullman. 

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