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Knowledge, awareness keys to sports success

High school sports are a beautiful thing to cover.

Athletes in Vicksburg are — the majority of the time — unbothered with standings, records or making the all-county list. Of course, it’s something they appreciate once they open the paper to see themselves featured.

They play their respective sports simply for the love of the game. If greatness comes from it, then it becomes an added benefit. Yes, there are some that hope to position their families in safer, more stable and consistent situations, but athletics is only one way to accomplish that goal.

Even before an athlete can aspire to play for a college or professional team, the work begins in the classroom.

If I can play the role of guidance counselor, your involvement and grades in high school are more imperative to your athletic advancement than your vertical or 40-yard dash time.

Universities scout hundreds of athletes each year, but if your academic history teeter-totters on the fence of acceptance, the coaching staff will go with the athlete whose transcript is more attractive.

The structured routine of high school can seem boring, making it simple to play around, and so can the curiosity of teenagers. But I’ll regurgitate the message Malcolm Butler advised his campers: “Go to school, do your work, and through it anything is possible.”

Academics do get more difficult as you grow older, but recent high school graduates and rising freshmen through seniors have more resources outside of your teacher. The Internet has myriad programs from YouTube to the Khan Academy to help break down basic concepts in algebra to cell reproduction in biology, to balancing equations and converting moles in chemistry.

At the high school age, dreams are filled with hope and desire. Plans are carefully put in place to accomplish said goals, but it all starts in the classroom and whom you choose as your friend.

I challenge kids to read Kobe Bryant’s letter to his 17-year-old self on The Players’ Tribune website where he wishes he made those who were close to him work for his money instead of being a gracious giver. Or read about Tyrann Mathieu’s eye-opening revelation he arrived at sitting in jail after being kicked out of LSU.

Never lose sight of why you love the game, but remember it’s ultimately your time and dedication that’ll get you there.

Alexander Swatson is a sports writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at alex.swatson@vicksburgpost.com