Sports or athletics, in general, have changed a whole bunch since I was young.

I’m 61 years old, attended St. Theresa Catholic School through junior high and graduated from East Ascension in 1971.

We didn’t have the number of sporting events to participate in or the opportunities to advance to the next levels. A few guys were good enough to advance to the collegiate level and even fewer got an opportunity to advance to professional sports.

Today, there are more colleges and more professional teams, along with another category of people participating more than ever before: female athletes. With all these added folks and sporting events along with all the opportunities that have presented themselves, how do we support all of these sports and keep up?

There are a couple of groups of folks that take part in this process that are very important. First of all, it starts at home. Parents and adults spend mountains of their time getting the kids to the ballparks and other facilities where participation takes place. Then there are the coaches, which in some circumstances are the parents of the younger players.

When it comes to high school sports, the group of people that has the most effect on these young folks is the coaches. I’d like to pay tribute to those individuals who dedicate their lives to help develop our children for maturity in sports as well as life in general.

Let’s go back to the days when I played. J.B. Landry built a baseball park in Prairieville so kids could have a place to play baseball. J.O. Berthelot gave much of his life ensuring that our youngsters had sports to play and a place to compete.

Butch Little coached us at St. Theresa and influenced my life beyond the lessons learned about sports. He had many years after my time to do the same for lots of our kids in Ascension parish.

Names like “Coon” Schexnaydre, “Shank” Meredith, Fred Fontenot and “Iggy” Paul Alexander developed more than football skills in their players.

Today, we have many coaching our kids in more ways than the skills required to succeed in football, basketball, baseball, etc. They teach them to reach out farther than they think is possible, not to be afraid to dream big, to slay the giants and mostly to believe in themselves.

To those folks in our parish, I tip my hat and I proudly salute you for your efforts, even when you might think you’re doing a lousy job. Keep your heads up and continue to lead our young folks on and off the field.

Soccer continues

The Ascension Christian boys will travel to play Glenmora at 10 a.m. and Grace Christian at 2 p.m. Saturday in Alexandria, and will face Lutcher High at 6 p.m. Dec. 19.

The Dutchtown High boys will host the Baton Rouge High soccer team at 1 p.m. Saturday and the Catholic High Bears at 6 p.m. Dec. 19.

The Griffins’ girls team will travel to St. Joseph’s Academy for a match at 6 p.m. Dec. 12 and will host the Lady Gators at 6 p.m. Dec. 16.

The East Ascension boys team will travel to McKinley High to face the Panthers at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The Lady Spartans will host St. Michael at 6 p.m. Friday at Spartan field then host Baton Rouge at 6 p.m. Dec. 16.

St. Amant’s boys soccer team will travel to Thibodaux to face E.D. White High School at 3:30 p.m. Saturday and then travel to Baton Rouge High for a 6 p.m. match Dec. 17.

The Lady Gators will host the Woodlawn Panthers at 6 p.m. Friday, travel to New Iberia for a 1 p.m. contest Saturday and then play at Dutchtown High for a match with the Griffins team at 6 p.m. Dec. 16.

Looking ahead

High school wrestling is well underway, and the basketball season is about to get in high gear as well. So next week, we’ll have some interviews and reports about the outlook and progress for those two sports.

Lyle Johnson covers sports for The Ascension Advocate. He can be contacted at reelman@eatel.net or ascension@theadvocate.com.