The high school sports season is coming to an end as the next three weeks are filled with district and state play. Seniors who have participated in high school sports for all four years of their high school career will most likely not continue to play sports in college.

Statistics show that only 2 percent will move on to play at any higher level. That does not minimize the importance of the life lessons learned during their participation in high school sports. Those lessons will stay with them throughout their lives.

High school sports have come under a lot of scrutiny over the past two decades. Many feel that athletes are better off playing on competition teams rather than on high school teams. Students have been discouraged from playing on school teams by outside influences who entice them to play on competition teams that travel all over the country and participate year-round.

Basketball and soccer students are lured into AAU and club teams with the promise of scholarships and an opportunity to advance on to higher levels. The facts are still the facts. A mere 2 percent of high school age athletes advance.

The true value of participation on school teams is the teachable moments experienced throughout their high school career. Studies have shown that high school students who are involved in some type of high school activity do better in the job market and are able to excel at a higher rate than students who have not been exposed to the values learned through school sports and activities programs. Work ethic, teamwork, self-sacrifice, leadership, mental toughness, accountability and confidence are all part of those programs.

Unfortunately, these life qualities can be overlooked because of the shift in focus to achieve a higher level. Today’s high school athletes deserve credit for their ability to complete the entire four years of high school committed to a sports or activities program.

There are so many forces that pull these young students into other situations that are often anything but life building for them. I have heard and have caught myself saying that kids are not like the used to be. That is an incorrect statement. Kids still have all the positive qualities possessed by all the kids before them. What has changed is the amount of pressure placed on them. If driven in the right direction, they still want to be held accountable and will feel rewarded when they know they did the best they could on any team.

High school sports offer that to anyone willing to make the commitment. Work ethic is the primary skill set learned through school programs. A high school athlete who has played a sport during all four years of high school will understand work ethic and will know how to apply it every aspect of life.

A companion skill set to work ethic is teamwork as a common goal. Those teammates will always be a part of their lives. When the graduates of 2019 have their reunions 50 years from now, the first people they will want to see and share stories with will be their past teammates. High school teammates develop a close bond that is rarely duplicated later in life.

Congratulations on a job well done to the 2019 graduating seniors who have been lucky enough to make high school sports a part of their learning experience. May the life lessons learned through high school sports serve you well in today’s ever-changing world.

Remember the team, to be willing to self-sacrifice, to not be afraid to work, lead in the right way and stay mentally tough during tough times – and do not be afraid to be held accountable. You will be a success in life.

• This week’s quote is a favorite from Rudyard Kipling: “The strength of the wolf is in the pack, and the strength of the pack is in the wolf.”

– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at t.crone@comcast.net.