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Sports column: Dirty work in summer builds champions

Beyond the centerfield fence at Warren Central’s Lucy Young softball field sits a small concrete plant.

The plant was put there to manufacture on-site the concrete needed for the massive renovations under way at the adjacent high school. The idea of building the tools and materials that you need to build other things has always fascinated me. While making the rounds to a few of our local high school teams recently, it also struck me as a good metaphor for the other work under way on the athletic fields of Warren County and Mississippi as a whole.

Months from now, players in all sports will finish their seasons and contemplate the journey. Undoubtedly, their focus will go to the handful of key plays or gritty efforts in clutch situations that allowed them to rise or fall, to succeed or to fail.

What will inevitably be overlooked are the little things that made it possible.

Every push-up. Every weight room rep when their muscles were screaming for mercy. Every 60-yard sprint in 95-degree heat when air conditioning and water bottles were inches away in the opposite direction.

All of those things are steps in a process, tests of every level of an athlete’s being, and all of them are going on daily right now. Mississippi’s athletes are all gathering daily for practice in the morning and evening. Many are probably wondering why they’re doing it. What could they possibly get out of it besides sunburn and heat exhaustion?

The answer isn’t to learn how to block and tackle, or how to better hit a curveball. It’s accountability to teammates and themselves. It’s a self-test to push through mental and physical fatigue when you don’t think you can. To not trim reps and cheat yourself out of the slightest bit of improvement.

Skipping one sprint in July won’t cost you a championship in December, but it will make it easier to skip the next one. And the next. Or to go half-speed when you’re tired. Those bad habits are best avoided by not developing them in the first place.

So to all of the athletes out there toiling and burning in the summer sun, wondering if it’s all worth it, think of that dirty concrete plant at Warren Central. Just like the materials it makes will eventually build something wonderful, so too will the dirty, sweaty work you do this summer.

But only if you put in the effort and build it the right way.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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