Warner column mug

I no longer have children playing high school sports. Those memories are beginning to fade - turning yellow like an old newspaper clipping in a scrapbook.

I wish I could go back and have that experience again, but for me there are no do-overs, so I can only sit back and watch other parents make the same mistake I did.

I wanted my son to be the star. For much of the time he played baseball and football, I was in a self-induced misery. I agonized with every mistake and was so nervous that he would fail that I had a difficult time enjoying the journey.

I wanted him to hit a walk-off home run, recover a fumble or come up with a pic-6.

I had my parent glasses on.

My son’s high school career had plenty of highlights. He played football and baseball for a 5A school. He got a win on the mound against Alta and he picked off former BYU quarterback Christian Stewart -- but when his high school career ended, he had no scholarship offers. He was never part of a state championship. He has no ring, no bling-bling, but his experience playing high school sports has taught him something that no college course ever could.

He got a lesson in how to handle adversity, so after his high school playing days were over, he knew how to handle a devastating injury that would change his life.

He stretched out to catch a pass in a football game and in the process fell to the turf in agonizing pain. He tore his ACL, PCL and MCL. Two surgeries followed along with an extensive rehab period that has carried on for over five years. His knee rebounded but he suffered permanent nerve damage in his leg as a result of the injury.

I’ve been in awe at the way he’s handled this crisis. It turns out that the most valuable experiences are ones you can’t put on a letterman jacket.

As one high school season turns into another, I see many athletes that remind me of my son and I can’t help but wonder if we are interfering in the learning process because of what we want for our children.

My son’s high school career did not turn out like he planned. He got discouraged and thought about transferring to another school or quitting.

It’s a situation many athletes face. Perhaps you lost your starting spot? You thought your senior year was your year and now a sophomore is starting in your spot?

You could try to get the coach fired, or you could quit -- or do both.

You wonder why your son or daughter should waste their time practicing when they are not playing? Especially when it’s so obvious to you that they are clearly so much better than the person playing in front of them?

Now that my son is removed from the game, I can see the value in the lessons he learned, and to my surprise it wasn’t how to hit the baseball to the opposite field or how to strip the ball from a receiver.

He learned how to persevere, how to work through difficult situations and emerge a winner regardless of what the final score was.

He could have, and at times wanted to, quit, but he never did.

Don’t quit -- it’s talked about frequently, but until you face that situation it is a passive principle.

Batting averages are forgotten. How many points you averaged per game is something you might have to look up to remember, but enduring tough situations with class can be a 401K for life.

Each year he’s been removed from the game is proving to be an elevation in altitude.

The further you get away from the stands, the more you see.

Sports mirror life. There are situations that seem unfair and loses often arrive with more regularity than wins.

Disappointments and defeats are part of the experience, but becoming mentally tough and working to refine a skill has proved much more rewarding than getting a game ball.

I was too focused on what was happening on the field to realize that while he was taking extra pitches in the batting cage and sweating in his football pads in summer workouts, he was absorbing some of life’s most valuable lessons.

He may not have been “The man,” but now he is a man.

Daily Herald sports writer Neil K. Warner can be reached at nwarner@heraldextra.com.

Twitter: @theGreatZuke

Neil K. Warner has been a sports writer for 25 years. He is the author of four books and is also known as the Great Zuke. He primarily covers Preps, Utah Valley University and BYU.

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