Young athletes are certainly different than they used to be

Not long after Don Peoples Jr. was named head coach of the Butte Central football team in 1989, I ran into the coach at a Butte Copper Kings baseball game.

I was heading into my freshman season at BC, and I took the opportunity to butter up my future coach.

“Hi Coach Peoples,” I said in true Eddie Haskell fashion. “How do you like the new job?”

With that, Coach Peoples asked me if I was going to go to the BC football camp, which was just a couple of weeks away.

“Uh, the what?” I replied.

“We’re having a football camp, and you should be there,” People said. “We want everyone on the team to be there.”

I had once been to a basketball camp and found it to be almost a complete waste of time. But I was completely unaware that there was such a thing as a football camp. My mind quickly processed what it would mean to go to such a camp.

I would have to take time away from the golf course in July to practice football in the blistering heat. I would have coaches yelling at me in that hot sun. And the clincher was that I would have to pay for all of this.

“Um … uh … yeah,” I said. “I will be there.”

I wasn’t there. I never considered being there for a second, and I’m pretty sure Coach Peoples could tell from the tone of my voice and my body language that I was lying.

Even though my dream of playing in the NFL wasn’t completely dead at that point in my life, there was no way I was going to sign up for all of that. I didn’t bother to ask, but I’m pretty sure my parents wouldn’t have been willing to pay for such a silly idea either.

So, my career as a high school football player didn’t get off on the right foot. It also didn’t last very long. I certainly didn’t have the attitude and work ethic to give up even one week of my summer to play football.

There was nothing better than summer vacation when I spent at least six days a week at the Highland View Golf Course dreading the day when school started again.

Playing football shortened that summer vacation, and I wasn’t going to waste any of that precious time getting yelled at by football coaches.

I guess you could say I was a throwback to the generations when football — as well as every other sport — actually had an off season.

You often hear old people say “kids these days,” as if the younger generation isn’t as tough as the generations of their parents or grandparents. Well, when I say “kids these days,” it comes from a completely different point of view.

How do they do it? How do they devote so much time to high school athletics? It takes up enough time trying to watch sports year round, let alone train for and play sports year round.

June is the month where coaches really get access to their players these days. So multi-sport athletes are facing demands from every direction.

They have to participate in football, basketball and volleyball tournaments every weekend because if they don’t they won’t have a snowball’s chance in Phoenix of winning when the season rolls around.

Some coaches say they don’t even really like all of the offseason work. But they know it is a must. Robbing the kids of their summer is a necessary evil.

Then there’s more camps in July, and then practice begins in August.

Even if these athletes don’t play baseball or have a job in the summer, they rarely get any time to themselves. Rarely do they get a free week day, let alone weekend.

Rarely do they get time to be a kid.

There is no way I could even attempt to be a bench warmer on a high school team under the standards of today.

People often say that kids aren’t as tough today as they used to be. To that I call bravo sierra. Kids these days are tougher. Way tougher.

Sure, the old football players in Butte used to have to endure three-a-day football practices without the benefit of water breaks. They played on a dirt field at Naranche Stadium.

Of course, they all had to walk to practice — uphill both ways — too.

The time they put in, however, was only a fraction of that of the modern athlete.

The legends of the Butte Sports Hall of Fame didn’t have to get to school at 6 a.m. for weight lifting and conditioning. They hardly even lifted weights back then.

The old-time players also didn’t have to go directly from football or volleyball practice to open gym for basketball. They played other sports in the offseason because they wanted to, not because they had their coach breathing down their necks.

Old timers had such a thing as a day off because the seasons didn’t run year round. Back then a traveling team was called the Harlem Globetrotters.

They use to have three-a-day practices for football because the players needed to get into shape in a hurry as the summer came to an end. Today’s football players don’t have time to ever get out of shape.

Now, basketball practice starts before football season is even over. When basketball is over, it’s immediately on to track or softball or whatever other sport is up next.

That takes some kind of special dedication.

Sure, maybe the players of yesteryear would have found that kind of commitment if they had to, but they never had to.

None of them ever had to lie to a coach about giving up a week on the golf course for football camp.

— Bill Foley, who doesn’t like to camp in the mountains let alone on a football field, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 4 comments

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  • Jeff Malby
    June 30, 2015, 5:24 am

    Dead on Bill. Well said. Good work.

  • Ted Richards
    June 30, 2015, 7:23 am

    The MHSA needs to put a rule no contact with kids in summer the coaches have to follow the rule which is impossible for them. Then kids could have a summer to play golf, legion baseball, camp, fish etc

  • Michelle Kambich
    June 30, 2015, 7:58 am

    How true! Then consider the money invested since the fourth,fifth and sixth grade. Sports are not for the economically disadvantaged, no matter how good you are.

  • Carrie Lindstrand
    June 30, 2015, 9:17 am

    Spot on Foles…spot on!


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