John F. Russell: It might be the end of the road for high school athletes, but that’s why we have adult leagues
Steamboat Springs — This is the time of year when reality starts to set in for most high school seniors.
Sure, high school athletes still can look forward to the winter and spring seasons, but the message that this is the final go-around for this group of seniors has been sent — and many of them will realize in the next few weeks that their athletic careers will not continue when the season comes to an end this year.
It’s the end of years of hard work, the end of trying to make the starting lineup and, for some, the end of competitive sports.
They can look forward to adult softball and soccer leagues, maybe a pickup basketball game or a chance to play in a city league. But the days of chasing state titles will come to an end for the Class of 2015, and for some the realization that it is all over will come too late for them to enjoy the moment.
For most of those athletes, the joy of high school athletics is short lived, and if they are like most of the kids I knew when I was in high school, the fleeting years of being part of a high school team will not be realized right away.
Next year, they will go on to college, make new friends and move on with their lives. A few, the lucky ones, will have the chance to play at college. Others will play in intramural sports or for club teams, but for many of them, the ride will be over.
It’s a sobering moment for most athletes — even the really good ones.
Just a few years ago, I remember meeting with Ron Schnackenberg, a former Steamboat Springs track and field standout, after he had placed third at the state high school track meet in the high jump.
It was May, and the sun was beating down on the field at the Air Force academy in Colorado Springs as he waited for the awards ceremony to begin.
It was easy to see that he didn’t want to leave the field and that the realization that high school athletics were over had fallen on him like a load of bricks at the end of a very successful high school career.
That didn’t make the realization that it was all over any easier.
The truth is that I see a lot of athletes that I covered in high school in Steamboat Springs. They have returned to our town to raise their own families, and many of them are active in coaching and in Steamboat’s active lifestyle.
The cool thing is that in a town like Steamboat, there are plenty of options available to adults who still want to pursue their competitive drive. They can be found on the softball fields in the summer, on the ice at Howelsen in the winter and on running and biking trails all across our town most of the year.
State titles may no longer be an option for the rest of us, but there is no reason to let that competitive drive end when high school sports come to an end.
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