ADVOCATE: ATHLETES, COACHES AND PARENTS MUST ALL BE ROLE MODELS

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METHUEN — Athletic Director Jim Weymouth wanted to make sure the Rangers fall sports season got off on the right foot so he scheduled a mandatory “Meet the Coaches Night,” for all coaches, student athletes and their parents that included an appearance by Bob Bigelow, a former NBA player and youth-sports advocate.

Bigelow travels the country speaking to communities, coaches, parents and administrators about how to improve youth sports.

Bigelow explained that 7.2 million youngsters are playing high-school sports, but only 400,000 will play at the college level after graduation.

“That means 1 out of every 18 high school athletes play college athletics.”

He then added the best part of high-school athletics is not the wins and losses but the relationships and friendships that are built along the way.

“There is a bigger, wider world out there after graduation,” Bigelow said. “This is a way to grow up with good friends.”

High-school athletics, according to Bigelow, has five stakeholders.

The first three are the school administrators, athletic directors and the coaches. Bigelow explained the top priority for those three are to make sure each student and student athlete receives their diploma at the end of their senior year.

“High-school athletic coaches are not, n-o-t, not in it for the money,” Bigelow said with a laugh. “What are they in it for? They are serving the needs of adolescents from 14 to 18 through the sports they coach. They are there to help graduate the kids.”

While Bigelow seemed to praise the administrators and coaches for their hand in guiding the kids through high school, he wasn’t so complimentary about stakeholder number four — the parents.

“I’m going to criticize the parents of kids in sports,” Bigelow explained. “How should parents behave? About 98 percent get it; the other 2 percent need help.

“Methuen High School is not the New England Patriots or the Boston Red Sox. In fact Methuen High School is not Boston College or Northeastern University or even UMass; it is a high school. If you think you can act the way you do at Foxboro yelling at Tom Brady for not making a pass, stay home. These kids are not Tom Brady or David Ortiz.”

The crowd that was laughing previously silenced as Bigelow spoke about the parents.

“Tom Brady knows if he misses three passes he’s going to get booed,” Bigelow said. “But he’s still going to cash a check for $7 million. This is not professional athletics; they are far removed from this world.”

Bigelow seemed to make his point and spoke to the final stakeholder in high-school sports — the athletes themselves.

“It’s role-model time,” Bigelow said. “Seven-, 9- and 10-year-olds watch you at Methuen High School and they want to be just like you.”

Bigelow said the records shouldn’t matter; it should be the legacy the athletes leave when they graduate.

“You, the athletes, should be thinking about what kind of lessons they take after seeing your attitude on the field,” Bigelow said. “They’ll look up at that and when they get here they’ll act the same way.”

Bigelow ended his speech by telling the kids they have something for years that is gold — friendships that are built through sports. And of course he told them all to “stay healthy.”

Have a story idea? Gayle Simone can be reached at 978-970-4838 or by e-mail at gsimone@thevalleydispatch.com.