Opportunity knocks for area coaches

It’s hard not to look back at high school without some type of regret.

Oh, come on. Don’t act like you’re not still upset over being too shy to ask that cute girl to prom, or that you’re not still wondering how good you could have been at sports if you wouldn’t have been out causing trouble. Or maybe you’re mad you accumulated tens of thousands in student loans because your grades weren’t good enough to qualify for any scholarships or grants.

Hmm… Maybe that’s just me.

Regardless, one of the things that gets under people’s skin is that there are so many ways of avoiding the pitfalls that surface post-high school. Let’s face it though, not many kids care to invest the time into programs they perceive as boring. It’s the job of parents — and coaches, when it comes to athletes — to point kids in the right direction and help them understand the benefits of such courses.

One of those courses is coming up at Youngstown State University. It’s known as GC-360, an event put on by Warren G. Harding graduate Michael Engram. Engram is a former WGH football player who is the founder of Game Changers, a charitable organization that focuses on helping student-athletes see the aforementioned pitfalls before they slap kids — and parents — across the face.

GC-360 welcomes individuals and teams, meaning a coach can send his entire group of players to the event, which does include a $35 fee per player ($25 for groups of 10 or more).

Truth is, not many kids are going to pony up $35 from their allowance (do kids still get allowances?) to go to an event that’s focused more on financial smarts, social-media etiquette and academic standards, among other character-based values. They’d rather go to the movies or buy something random. They’re kids. It’s what they do.

Coaches and parents have to pay, but considering the amount of money people spend on camps, clinics and personal trainers, I don’t see $35 as an absurd amount. If the mentors of our kids don’t show the same type of investment in academics and overall core values, can we expect the kids to? Doubtful.

Engram has an obvious bias, being the founder of Game Changers, when he says the onus is on the coaches to send their kids to these types of seminars.

“I’ll say this, the buy-in that we really need and the support is from the coaches, just to be completely honest,” said Engram, whose organization is based in Warren. “If the coaches don’t make the decision to get the kids involved, the kids aren’t going to do it. This (event) is what it is. … It’s one of those things where the adults have to step up and (realize) that it’s for your own good.”

Sure is.

I remember getting my first credit card at 19. My thoughts: “Wait, I can spend money I don’t have, and I only have to pay back a small portion every month!?! This. Is. Awesome!”

Reality hit a few months and a few thousand dollars later. After a few missed payments, that little interest rate skyrocketed, and about 10 years later, I finally paid it off.

That’s an easy trap to fall into as a naive teenager or young adult. It’s also easily avoidable, if you give yourself the knowledge — and the opportunity — do avoid it. Engram’s event is an opportunity kids will have, and if you’re a coach who truly believes building a better person is more important than building a better athlete, how do you not look deeper into these types of courses?

Don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t be that coach who talks about how football is secondary to teaching young men life values and then overlook opportunities right in front of you.

That’s one of the biggest problems in youth and high school athletics, and the longer it gets overlooked, the longer we’re going to have kids who don’t understand that student comes before athlete when you’re a student-athlete.

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