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In every young athlete's life there comes a point when participation is no longer enough.

If we're talking about 6-year-olds playing Tee-ball or little ones participating in an indoor YMCA soccer league, then by all means, participation ribbons are appropriate.

There is also a very fine line as to when to push a child to perform in his or her chosen sport. I once witnessed a youngster crying because he wanted to chase foul balls at a high school game, but his father insisted on the child watching the pitcher closely for tips and pointers.

In high school sports, that line has been crossed.

Any sports fan will tell you they want their team to win. High school sports are the same way – no student-athlete wants to lose. Varsity teams are put on the court or field with the goal of winning, or at least being competitive. And coaches are hired with the understanding that they will do everything in their power to put forth a competitive team.

But more and more, coaches are being scrutinized to the point of diluting what high school sports are all about – teamwork, camaraderie, refining skills and competing well.

I have no issue with Chambersburg Area School District wanting to emphasize using "positive language to motivate student-athletes." It's always best to be positive when possible, but there is an underlying issue of interference from the community in the athletics department at Chambersburg.

For one, it is nearly impossible to define "positive language." What is positive to one person may not be positive to another, and that also applies to the use of "negative language."

Secondly, kids need to know when they are doing something wrong. I once had a desperate coach ask me, "What would you do? If you tell a kid the same thing three and four times, and he still doesn't get it, what would you do?"

Also, the idea of high school is to prepare children for adult life. That goes for sports, too. The idea of being "only positive" with children is worrisome because you may be setting them up for unrealistic expectations in the future.

And finally, and probably most importantly, why was this particular addition necessary? The CASD Athletic Handbook is an 85-page document that explains everything from what players should expect from coaches to the athletic director's responsibilities to how parents should interact with coaches. There are already more than enough clauses and provisions to protect student-athletes from unjust punishment or speech.

So, why are we still talking about this? Football coach Mark Saunders and boys basketball coach Shawn Shreffler were both subject to allegations that they may have broken the CASD code of ethics.

I cannot say these allegations were true or false, but what I can say is these allegations happened more than a year ago in the case of Saunders and more than three years ago for Shreffler. I have been around both of these coaches – and every other Trojan coach, for that matter – countless times over my three-plus years with Public Opinion. I have never seen anything from a Chambersburg head or assistant coach that I thought was unethical.

Have I heard a curse word here or there? Sure, from players, coaches and fans alike. Have I heard a coach yell at a player, either at practice or during a game? Of course.

Sports are emotional. There is no doubt about it. If you've ever watched a Detroit Lions game with me, you'd know that I would fail the "positive language" test by the end of the first possession. And that's just a team that I'm a fan of – I have no actual connection to it, such as actually being a coach and being around the players day in and day out.

Passionate and spontaneous outbursts are going to happen, but I have never seen anything from a Chambersburg coach that would be considered out of line. If anything, Chambersburg coaches are some of the most passionate and caring I've seen.

From everything I've witnessed from the Trojan athletic community, there is not a problem – especially not one so drastic that it warrants endless conversations at school board meetings.

There comes a point when parents, fans and the community alike simply need to let coaches coach and athletes play, and that is what needs to be done in Chambersburg.

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