Remember fans, let the players play

Good afternoon, students, and welcome to today’s sports tryout for your high school team.

Before we get started, there are a few things you need to know. Although we will hold drills to see how fast you run, how well you shoot and how high you score, none of that will actually matter when it comes to deciding who is selected for, or starts on, the team.

Obviously, our greatest concern is not winning or losing, but address and lineage. If you don’t live in the right neighborhood, you’re probably not going to get picked for the team. And if you have the wrong last name, you’re likely going to spend a lot of time on the bench.

Yes, we have hundreds of people to choose from when we compile the roster for this sport, and many of you will be close to one another in talent level. We need a way to pick the best, and we certainly don’t worry about whether that’s “best” in the athletic sense.

Remember, at our high school, it’s who you know, not what you know!


Does that sound like pretty much the silliest thing you’ve heard? If so, I’ve got a surprise for you: I hear a version of it on a regular basis.

I think the most laughable example I can offer goes back to spring 2005, when Midd-West was in its first year of existence. A parent called, and asked me to look into “that baseball coach” because he allegedly was never going to allow any of the West Snyder kids to get on the field ahead of his Middleburg boys.

As it happened, I had covered a Midd-West game the day before – a day in which the starting pitcher was from McClure, a starting infielder from Beaver Springs and the first sub who got into the book was another player from the previous year’s West Snyder team.

Of course, the caller had an answer for that – those players were allowed to play because they came from special families, not because they were more talented.

Yes, I understand completely. The coach wasn’t worried about ability, he was worried about pedigree. Nobody would have been upset if he lost the game with the right people on the field, and it was just a coincidence that the kids he selected took the team into the state playoffs that year.

Oh, and the moon is made out of green cheese.

What made me think of this was a recent post I saw in an online forum about a local high school. I don’t want to draw attention to the writer – even if it was said somewhat publicly – nor the school, but this is the gist: Don’t play sports here. The better kids drop out of sports because they sit on the bench while players who aren’t as good get in the game. The local talent is wasted.


Now, there are sports where it’s easy to know who’s best, and the selection of starters is based on that. Those are mainly individual sports, like track or tennis, bowling or wrestling. In simple terms, the guy who can run the fastest 100 isn’t going to be benched in favor of a kid who’s three seconds slower.

It’s a little harder in other sports. Sure, you know which football player can run the fastest 40, and which basketball player can hit the most free throws. But knowing which players will mesh well together and do the best for the team as a unit is harder to discern.

And Mom, Dad, you may not like this, but you are the least qualified person to make that judgment when it comes to your child. No matter how well you know the sport, you’re too biased to be fair in that one.

There’s a code of conduct that more and more schools are adopting, one that family members and fans are wise to remember: Let the coaches coach, let the players play. Remember that every one of them is someone’s son or daughter.

And let’s add this corollary: I’m pretty sure they aren’t there because of whose.


Jeff Fishbein is sports editor of The Sentinel. Contact him at