I will admit it. I am jealous of high school athletes.

But it is not for the reasons one might think.

It is not because they are almost two decades younger than me and most likely in better shape than I have ever been.

It does not have anything to do with the fact their best athletic years are still ahead of them, while mine reside in a time when they were still in training pants.

The reason I am envious of high school athletes is because of their ability to emotionally immerse themselves in a sport.

It occurs every year. Regardless of the sport, once the final game of the season is played, tears begin flowing, especially for seniors.

While it might be slightly embarrassing for some to be seen crying, I actually wish I had the ability to invest myself in something to a point it was capable of inflicting emotional pain. But I cannot. I am too old and too jaded.

The only thing capable of bringing me to tears nowadays would be something involving my family. I cried when my daughter was born, and I cried when my Mom was battling cancer. To weep over anything else seems senseless to me now.

Like high school athletes, though, I am committed to my job, but if it was taken away, I could not see myself becoming overly emotional about it outside of having concern over how I would pay bills and buy groceries.

It is not that I do not care about my job. After all, I spent countless dollars and hours to earn my journalism degree, and I am proud to be a sports writer. I just do not become emotionally entangled with it.

But I remember when other aspects of my life held much higher importance. I can recall being moved through sports at a younger age.

Athletes invest so much of themselves into their sports, it consumes them. Their schedules are constructed around practices and games. Hours spent together on busses and in the heat of competition transform teammates and coaches into friends, who then become extended family. Downtime revolves around finding new ways to hone their skills.

Unfortunately, outside of the rare few who are able to extend their playing careers into the collegiate or professional levels, high school is the ultimate stage and once the lights go off, they do not come back on.

Eventually, the “real world” comes knocking, and sports must take a backseat. Life broadens beyond basketball courts, football fields, softball diamonds and oval tracks.

Until the day arrives, however, athletes need to savor every moment they can spend participating in their sport. They need to dedicate themselves to the point it hurts once it is over. They should cry when a playoff run ends or a career comes to a close. It shows how much they care.

Coaches should feel pride when a player sheds a tear because it means they gave everything they had. It means they were devoted to the cause.

So, I will admit it. I am jealous of those who still have the ability to allow their emotions to overtake them, even if it is over something as simple as a sport.

Heck, I might even join a recreational basketball league, just so I can feel the agony of missing a game-winner.

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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