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Scott Baker’s Walkin’ the Sideline: SENIORITIS

Senioritis

You have played your sport since the age of five. You’ve dreamt of playing varsity. Perhaps, you’ve achieved that goal. You’re now entering your senior year. You will have one more year to participate in high school athletics.

What does that get you?

What does that mean?

What responsibilities will you have?

Unfortunately, I’m witnessing a growing trend toward athletes believing that their senior year is about them.

Yep, them.

Yes, they are seniors.

Yes, this is their last year of high school sports. However, what they are forgetting is that the sport owes them nothing just because they’re a senior.

Today, I’m witnessing an approach to “senior year” that screams individualism. Despite the fact that it is “senior year” for a number of players on each team, it still must be about the team.

All too often though I’m hearing and observing much that goes against this idea. More and more common today are the constant comments from seniors about “my senior year.” Parents often join in as well as they talk of their child’s “senior year.”

Congratulations, you made it to your senior year. What that actually should get you is an appreciation that you’ve had the opportunity to play a sport that you love throughout your high school years and a sense of responsibility instead of a sense of entitlement. A sense of responsibility means that as a senior it is largely up to you to lead. It is up to you to make underclassmen feel that they are welcome and they belong.

Help those underclassmen to learn lessons that you have learned through experience so that when they are in your position, they too can then lead. This means both inside the classroom as well as on the field, court, course, track or pool.

However, what I’m seeing and hearing all too often flies contrary to appreciation and responsibility. Instead, there is much that screams entitlement.

Too many feel entitled to play.

Too many feel that they’ve earned the right to “boss” around the underclassmen.

What I’m also seeing is senior-night events developing into gift-giving celebrations for a few on the team.

In fact, in some cases, senior year is becoming a gift-getting period for seniors because underclassmen are expected to buy them gifts and do “nice” things for them throughout the season. In other words, in short, senior year has become solely about seniors in too many cases.

This can cause serious issues when considering team development. In the olden days, there would be a game, usually the last of the season where seniors and their parents would be introduced prior to the game and perhaps in the process receive a small gift. Players might receive a jersey or blanket while mom got a flower. Coaches would typically even start seniors and then pull them in favor of the “real starters” within just a couple of minutes.

Now? Oh no. Now, it has become the expectation that seniors will start and they will play…a lot.

It doesn’t matter if they deserve to be in the position that they are taking away from the underclassmen or not because you see, it is “senior night”…my senior night.

Following each senior night it is now common to read headlines simply titled, “Thank you, seniors!” That does in fact really confuse me. You see I ask myself, what are the seniors being thanked for?

After all, were they not given the privilege to have participated in the sport they loved for a long time? That opportunity to me warrants just the opposite of what I’m observing. What I believe should be happening is seniors using the night to be thankful for the opportunities that they have been given through the years to play and compete…to compete for their school and community and with their friends.

They should thank their parents for the car rides to countless games and practices.

They should thank their coaches for the many lessons that they’ve learned.

They should thank their underclassmen teammates for pushing them.

They should thank the boosters and perhaps administration for providing support.

“Thank you, seniors?”

Just what exactly are we thanking them for?

Are we thanking them for providing us with great entertainment through the years?

Are we thanking them for being great role models to their younger teammates?

Are we thanking them for the sacrifices that they made to bring honor and recognition to their school and community?

If the answers to the three preceding questions are yes, then, I loudly shout, THANK YOU SENIORS!

However, what is unfortunately far fetched is to think that every senior group on every sport team is deserving of that proclamation. What we would be better served doing is recognizing which group of seniors is deserving of recognition and thank you and which ones should be more thankful than thanked.

Sadly, senior night has become much like the trophy situation in which everyone who participates gets one.

Now with senior night it has become, you are a senior so lets heap upon you gifts, recognition and praise. Whether it is deserved or not is not important. What matters is that you are a senior.

Or so they say.

I recognize that many will see this topic and my observations and stance on it in a very negative light.

Rest assured that is not my intent.

What I desire is for teams and boosters to recognize seniors for their accomplishments and for seniors to reciprocate with an appreciation for the wonderful opportunities that they have been given to play a high school sport.

Anything else screams disrespect and individualism and neither of those two things have any place in high school sports.

Let’s get back to teaching respect.

Let’s get back to earning the recognition you get.

Let’s get back to senior nights that are representative of careers drawing to a close and recognition of the wonderful memories that were made along the way.

In the meantime, I’m fine with leaving the gift-giving celebrations at the party. Hopefully, we can develop a generation of young people that appreciate the opportunities that they have been given and then pass that appreciation along to those who come after them.

When seniors begin to do just that I would be the first to say, “Thank you, seniors.” I would understand why I’m saying it and so would they. I bet they would appreciate the recognition as well. They would understand that it is recognition that had been earned. That is a good thing.

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