Kids always amaze me.

I’ve seen lots of astounding athletic feats performed by teenagers in my short career. From football fields to basketball courts to softball diamonds and everything in between, the youth of America are dazzling to watch.

But I often find myself more taken aback by the skill they demonstrate outside the confines of competition.

I’ve conducted countless interviews, and every time I encounter a new face, I assume they will be uncomfortable speaking, feeding me simple answers that serve little purpose in print. More often than not, however, I am wrong.

A majority of the kids I talk to are open, honest, well-spoken and insightful. Sure, there are some who are nervous and somewhat withdrawn, but I don’t blame them.

At 17 or 18 years old, I most likely would have completely shut down if a stranger saying he was from the newspaper ran me down and stuck a recorder in my face. My exact response to any question probably would have been either “yes” or “no” preceded by about 30 seconds of me going, “Uhhhhhhh.”

In addition to being put on the spot, I am sometimes accompanied by a videographer, adding to the pressure. Other times, there are multiple reporters surrounding them and bombarding them with questions. Occasionally, television crews are on hand, and sometimes classmates stand in the background trying their best to distract.

Nevertheless, I typically get more than I expected and often strike verbal gold. It would seem like I would learn my lesson and assume my interviews will go smoothly, but I never do. I always walk up to kids for the first time anticipating the worst.

Maybe it is because I was very reserved growing up, becoming extremely nervous in social situations, especially anything involving public speaking. Perhaps it has to do with the fact I’ve hung out with a lot of total morons in high school, who couldn’t put together an intelligible idea to save their lives, let alone give a telling interview.

Then again, it could just have to do with my overwhelmingly pessimistic nature or maybe this generation of kids is just more forthcoming and comfortable than those in the past.

Regardless of reasoning, I’m glad to be wrong. I give the parents a lot of the credit for raising kids who are secure, confident and honest enough to make my job easier.

Making matters even better, almost all the athletes I talk to call me “sir.” Even though it makes me feel old as dirt, I appreciate the respect instilled in them. Again, I believe the parents deserve a majority of the praise, but in the end, kids are kids and they are typically going to do whatever they want to.

Although I’m sure plenty have wanted to punch me in the face for bugging them with stupid questions after losing a playoff game, none have. Knock on wood. I’m slowly learning that a cold, withdrawn interview is most likely not the norm from kids these days. In fact, I probably get more honest insight from high school athletes than I do from any other group of people I talk to.

While I love seeing amazing performances, I truly enjoy knowing today’s youth has a lot of substance, maturity and self-assurance to complement their athletic skills.

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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