The South County fall sports season rolls in, onto our fields, courts, and trails, for the upcoming days of fall. As the athletes develop the story lines, we offer a potpourri of insight for both inside and outside the lines of play.

-A new turf field at North Kingstown High School. It will benefit all sports, but none more than field hockey. Played on turf, the sport more mirrors ice hockey, without the freezing terrain and physical contact. The new surface takes it from a slower, more plodding sport to one lightning quick and far more exciting. Good news for the Skippers, their opponents, and field hockey enthusiasts.

-A young athlete darts across the soccer field, masterfully dribbling through competition. Seconds later, after hard contact, he collapses, holding his lower leg, clearly injured and in pain. A competitor stops to aid him in a moment I viewed as one of the truest definitions of sportsmanship. Instantly, a shout is heard directing the player to leave the fallen opponent alone and re-engage in the game. The shout is not from the coach, but from the boy’s father on the sideline. The concerned, now confused player leaves his opponent and re-enters the fray.

This was witnessed during a boys’ soccer match not too long ago. It is fully understood that we can attend to injured athletes after the play is completed. But the message sent instructing the player to disregard the fallen athlete was troublesome. Our supposed role models make it so hard for our youth. There are very few times when athletes assist an opponent at any level of sports. It has apparently become a badge of strength to turn one’s back.

Buck the trend, young people. Be a leader, even to the older generation. Show those around you the true meaning of sportsmanship. Make your own determinations on these matters and do not be swayed when it comes to doing the right thing. People before sports. Trust your own instincts if you feel doing the right thing is being discouraged. Adults can learn from you as much as the other way around.

-It is fun watching the year-to-year ebb and flow of high school sports rivalries. The South Kingstown Rebels and North Kingstown Skippers have seen major shifts in their football success depending on graduating classes. We look forward to seeing what the upcoming season holds for both programs. Strap on the pads and helmets and let the games begin.

-Speaking of field hockey, I know lack of physical contact is part of the tradition of the sport. And I know striking the ball only on the forehand side of the stick is part of what makes the sport unique and challenging. But I would love to see a change in the rules that could create more freedom to play the game with less whistles. I know I am not a purist, but this great game would be even more fun to watch.

-We continually witness at the higher levels of sports, especially professional basketball, players attempting to deceive the referee by blatantly lying about which player last touched the ball, whether an injury occurred, or other similar acts. This now seems to be accepted as part of athletics. Youth of our community, please know this is not acceptable. It is not OK just because your sports idols do it. While they may be stars in the sport, you can be the star when it comes to honesty and integrity.

If the ball went out of bounds off you and not an opponent, just stride away. Claiming it went off another player when you know the truth is the path for those with less character. If only for yourself, just jog away. If your coach tells you otherwise, explain your reasoning and know in your heart you would do it again. These habits will come to define you for the present and the future.

-Note to young athletes: If you make the decision to try out for a team and are selected, stay the course for the entire season. Are there reasons one would remove oneself from the team? Definitely. But quitting due to lack of promised playing time, not liking the coach, or similar complaints are only cheating you in the long run. You only have one opportunity to play youth sports. Playing time is earned, not promised. Bad coaches come and go. You will experience the same in bosses throughout your life. Honor your commitment, even if matters are not working out exactly to your liking. You will learn lessons, whether overcoming obstacles to earn playing time or in being a great teammate. When it is all said and done, you will be glad you chose the path of competing rather than quitting.

-My predictions for the upcoming South County interscholastic season? Championships. Any time our area schools are in the mix, you can count on titles. Finding out which teams reign victorious will be fun to watch. Bring it on.

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