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Sports lead shift into spring

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The weather might not always indicate it, but spring is here.

I know the calendar says the spring equinox is still more than a week away, but I don’t judge seasons by dates. I can tell by sports schedules.

As I rifle through my current stack, it is apparent spring has sprung, and the school year’s final stretch has officially begun.

The track, tennis and golf seasons are underway, and in addition to the switch in sports, there is also a change in mentality.

From this point on, team sports begin to fade and individual achievements start to shine. While there is always a team aspect to every sport, the majority of the attention starts to be placed on the athlete, and I’m fine with that.

For the first half of the school year, team unity is stressed to the utmost degree. In field houses across the country, football coaches continually preach about brotherhood, while basketball and volleyball coaches attempt to mold their players into miniature families.

The trend continues throughout the calendar in all the team sports from soccer to softball, and an all-for-one mentality prevails inside locker rooms.

Until spring.

Suddenly, the point of emphasis shifts to the individual.

Track and field is all about who can run the fastest, jump the highest and throw the farthest, while tennis and golf are traditionally considered some of the most internally challenging and mentally draining sports because players have no support system as they compete.

Again, I understand team still plays into aspects of these sports, but it is not nearly as prevalent, and in a way, it is only appropriate.

The sports seasons coincide almost perfectly with the emotional curve of the school year.

In the fall, everything is new and fresh. Spirits are high and change is in the air as students flock to their respective campus, where they reunite with old friends and begin bonding with others. It is a time when everyone is coming together with unity and pride used to forge camaraderie. Long praised as the ultimate team sport, football is often the catalyst for such school spirit, serving as the weekly social gathering.

As time goes, the newness fades and attitudes temper. Without a glorified meet-and-greet every Friday, kids begin breaking away and simultaneously sports are becoming more specialized.

While everyone went to the football games, now some students prefer basketball and others choose to watch soccer.

In the spring, seniors are searching for colleges with many preparing to move away from home for the first time after graduation. Other students begin daydreaming about upcoming vacations or start setting themselves up for summer jobs or simply spend time dreading or frantically preparing themselves for looming finals.

At some point, however, the mentality switches both in sports and in life from the group to the individual, and for whatever reason, it just feels natural.

I love team sports and would argue nothing is more exciting than watching a collection of pieces come together to form one cohesive unit, but I’m ready to begin celebrating athletes as well. Luckily, even though Central Texas still feels like the inside of a freezer at times, spring is here.

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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