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We must be careful with the words we choose

January 10, 2011

Believe it or not, I am very careful with what words I choose to be in this column each week.

Words mean a lot.

They can convey a simple message or a hard-hitting one.

Words can keep kids out of college or prison.

Words can keep families together or tear them apart.

Words can get adults fired or hired.

Words and how they are used can be the difference between getting hugged or punched.

Words are very powerful.

There are also times when no words are needed.

A look will suffice, as can body language.

Words are also rarely forgotten.

Many things were discussed and said about what it will take to move the community forward in October in a Town Meeting held at the Emmanuel Church of God In Christ in Steubenville.

"We as parents are responsible. We are smart and very intelligent people. But it is irritating to see kids scoring a touchdown on Friday night, but knowing they are reading at a fifth-grade level," Delores Wiggins, president of the Ohio Valley Black Caucus, said that night.

The Ohio High School Football Coaches Association awards and recognizes teams throughout the state academically.

It is a simple process.

Each of the 718 high school football teams in Ohio has the opportunity to be recognized on the academic all-Ohio team listing.

The top grade-point averages are taken of 22 returning lettermen, are added together and divided by 22 to get the team GPA. If a team does not have 22 returning lettermen, the divisor is the number of returning lettermen available.

The top six schools receive a plaque and the next 14 receive a certificate.

Those awards are handed out at the OHSFCA annual banquet.

Steubenville Big Red finished 39th in the state.

This award is not divided into divisions. It is an all-division award. It is not a public school thing or a private school thing.

The top six teams are Moeller, Anderson, Archbold, Brecksville, Canton McKinley and Mayfield.

The next 14 teams are Anthony Wayne, Hubbard, Sylvania Southview, New Albany, Avon Lake, Olentangy, West Branch, Toledo St. Francis, Massillon Jackson, Clyde, Chesapeake, Sidney, St. Edward and Delphos St. John.

I have no clue how many high schools chose to participate in this quest.

But, let's say only half of the high schools did so - that would be 359.

With that number, Big Red finished in the top 11 percent in the state.

Sounds like better than a fifth-grade reading level to me.

Parents should really think twice before berating a coach because they perceive their child is not playing enough.

I have a simple solution for coaches who have parents accost them because of this issue - do not allow that kid to play one second in the next game.

Then, there is no problem with playing time because there was none.

There has to come a place where the kids look at their parents and say something similar to this, "I am tired of you embarrassing me. I am playing and not you. If I have a problem with the coach, I will do something. I really want you to come to my games and watch me and my teammates play. But, unless you can do so respectfully, please stay home. When you both have decided you can come to the games and cheer us on and be positive, it would be great to have you both in the stands.

"If you cannot do that, I don't want you in the gym."

Now, I ask all kids to say those words in kindness and with the utmost respect.

But, they need to be said.

Really, at some point in time, I would guess a lot of coaches wished they were coaching at orphanages.

I still find it funny that playing time is an issue.

The last time I checked, there is no place in the contract of becoming a team member that gives any member of the team certain playing time rights.

When you become a member of a team you pretty much give up all individual rights.

You are a member of a team and the team is bigger than you.

You want to play more - work harder.

It is that simple.

Mom and dad, when you see your teenager laying on their backsides this summer, doing nothing, and doing so more often than not, there are other kids (teammates and opponents) who are outside working hard, sweating hard and getting better - something you child is not doing, unless it is "Madden '11" or "Call of Duty."

Kids, if you go to your coach and whine about playing time, you need to have something more in your corner than some lame excuse like "I think I deserve it."

That, kids, is selfishness in its simplest form.

The question to the coach is, "What do I need to do to get more playing time?"

Now, the coach will listen.

There are a lot of problems that arise because kids are not outside on a regular basis playing some sort of pick-up game - whether it be football, basketball, baseball or soccer.

You see, back in the day, we figured out how to get along when someone got mad - you know, took their ball or bat and went home.

We figured out how to get together the next day and play another game. We figured out how to become friends again. We figured out how to resolve the conflict without mommy or daddy getting involved.

Want to know why parents are butting into their kids business at times when there is no need to do so?

That's the reason.

Kids are resilient and will figure things out and will do so without adult supervision.

Or, more specifically, the adult micro-management.

When I chose to change careers about 20-plus years ago, I was sitting in the San Diego Golf Academy learning about the business side of golf. One of the teachers handed back a test and one of our classmates missed an A by one point.

He then started on the teacher about giving him an A because he only missed it by one point.

"Let me ask you something," said the teacher. "If you are in a golf tournament and miss the cut by one stroke, are you going to go to the tournament officials and beg to play the weekend because you 'only' missed the cut by one shot?"

Discussion over.

Point taken.

So, kids, if you miss an A on a test by a percentage point or two, get one more question correct and quit asking the teachers for special dispensation.

And, teachers, please don't give it.

Last month I wrote what turned out to be a popular piece on Weir High junior Kelsey Ferguson and how she went from injury to the pool from June to December and her new outlook on life.

She talked about her two stints at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh.

"When I am able, I would love to go back and volunteer and help all those kids," she said.

Her words.

Two weeks ago Ferguson went back for a follow-up appointment and testing. She passed with flying colors. and signed up for the teen volunteer training program.

She kept her word.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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