Whistles echoed across fields throughout central Maine this week. Athletes did a lot of running, met a few new teammates and did their best not to embarrass themselves learning a new play or running a new drill.

Then they did it all over again a few hours later (you’ve got to love two-a-days).

Preseason practices started Monday and the first regular-season games of the fall sports season are now less than two weeks away.

Before we get too fired up for the games to begin, let’s take a few minutes to talk about the upcoming season. I’m going to address a few groups individually here, but understanding the expectations of each group will help you better enjoy and understand the experience of high school sports.

* Seniors: Take an underclassman or two under your wing. Those freshmen who seem to have no clue what coach is talking about, who never seem to be in the right spot and who might just goof off a little too much for your liking, you were one of them once.

And they are the future of the program. When you go off to college, they will be representing the school, the uniform you worked so hard to represent the right way. Teach them how to represent it the right way.

Someone did it for you when you were a freshman goofing off, pay it forward.

* Underclassmen: Listen to those seniors. They’ve been through this before. They’ve been through the seemingly endless preseason practices. They’ve been in close games where all that work at those seemingly endless preseason practices paid off. They’ve listened to hundreds of coach’s speeches. They’ve learned a lot over the last four years, you can learn a lot from them.

* Coaches: Teach your athletes as much as you can, bring out the best in them and understand these are just kids.

Hopefully, you all understand what a huge role you play in these kids lives. They’ll remember you for as long as they live. That doesn’t mean you should be their friend so they remember you fondly, but they shouldn’t remember what a jerk you were either.

You have taken on a huge responsibility when you accepted this job. It’s not something anyone should take lightly and you should be applauded for stepping up and doing the job. It is not easy.

Treat your athletes with respect, teach them all about the great game they are playing and make the experience enjoyable.

* Mom and Dad: Enjoy the ride, don’t take things too seriously and let your kids have fun. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment. It’s easy to want your kid to be the star. It’s hard to watch your kid sit on the bench.

But remember, this is about your kids, not you. Let them learn from the experience of playing sports. Let them experience the ups and downs, without causing any yourself. Make sure this is an experience they’ll look back on with pride and joy, not something they want to forget.

And let coaches coach and officials officiate. In most cases, they know the game a whole heck of a lot better than any of us do.

* This last one is for everyone: Have fun.

Coach as well and as hard as you can. Play the game right, as hard as you can, and do whatever it takes — within the rules — to win. Shout encouragement from the sidelines and chant support to those athletes on the field.

All of this is encouraged and expected.

However, take it from someone who, to this day, takes sports a bit too seriously, you’ll regret it if you look back and realize you didn’t enjoy the ride. Your teammates should be friends for life. Coaches should be people you look up to, even when you are old enough to be a coach yourself. Sports should be something you look back on favorably.

Yes, the losses will hurt, but don’t forget the long bus rides with your friends. Don’t forget the bonds you formed during these preseason practices in the sweltering heat or the pouring rain. Don’t forget how happy you were when you made your first varsity team, earned your first start, scored your first goal.

Even if those things seem so far away during these seemingly endless practices.

Scott Martin — 621-5618

[email protected]

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