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Intramural sports may be the best way to go

It’s not whether one wins, but how the game is played. That, basically, is the gist of good sportsmanship. And so it should remain, regardless of what level or type of sport — from T-ball to varsity baseball, from roller-skating to Olympic speed-skating. Genuine effort, team camaraderie, execution and grace are, and should remain, paramount.That said, there should also be a certain amount of respect for the sport itself. If someone is on the rowing team, he or she should know how to paddle. If someone is on the soccer team, he or she should know how to kick. Having a certain proficiency for a sport is a reasonable expectation for any coach or athletic director to have when organizing a team or running a drill. To do any differently is actually disrespectful to those who have spent hours trying to perfect their skills and to master the sport. Is it fair to place someone who has a keen sense of serving a tennis ball on the same team as someone who can’t even hit the ball with the racket? Honestly, it’s not. Now, this is not to say that the novice should not be given a chance to participate. Nor is it to say that the beginner should be treated disrespectfully, inhumanely or cruelly. After all, everyone has to start somewhere. But there should be, especially in our schools, a safe and encouraging place for those just learning a sport to begin from.That’s where North East (Webutuck) Central School District Athletic Director Jon Zenz’s idea of creating an intramural program starts to make sense. Zenz made the suggestion to the Webutuck Board of Education at its meeting on Monday, Feb. 13, to some apprehension regarding his thoughts on cutting students from teams.“I look at this as a way to expose kids to sports at a younger age,” he said. “It also provides the opportunity for a student who is cut [from a modified, junior varsity or varsity team] to go to the intramural program and improve their skills before trying out again.”He makes good sense. It might sound harsh to some parents concerned about their children having hurt feelings when potentially not being accepted to the middle or high school teams. But children, like adults, should learn that it takes practice, time, dedication and talent to make it to the top. And until one gets there it’s OK to work your way up from the bottom. That’s how people learn, how they improve, how they master skills. And there is no shame at starting from step one.Creating feeder teams at Webutuck is a good idea. It certainly deserves a respectful and open discussion, without anger and acrimony, around the board table. That Zenz has already arranged for some of his coaches to volunteer free of charge adds to the proposal’s allure. There’s really no reason not to give the suggestion a try.Intramural teams will also give students a chance to see if they like the sports as much as they think they will, because for some children the fantasy of playing soccer is so much better than the reality. So why not give students an opportunity for a test run? And why not give them an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of any given sport, a chance to hone their skills, and a goal — to get good enough to earn their rightful place on the varsity team bench.That said, whether you agree or disagree with the proposal, make your feelings known at the next Board of Education meeting, which will be held on Monday, March 5, at the Webutuck High School library.

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