Pleasanton Preps: Sports teach students valuable life lessons

Also: Recap of fall signing day at Foothill

During the first two weeks of November, I announced North Coast Section and California Interscholastic Federation Northern California volleyball matches for the Foothill varsity girls team, and it was those matches that highlight what's great about high school athletics.

High school sports across the board have been trivialized by many. Whether it is local daily newspapers deciding high school sports are not worth covering, school districts that have eliminated a lot of financial support or even subversive groups within individual schools that would love to see athletics disappear, high school sports have suffered.

As a result, so have the students.

I will make a statement right here that athletics are every bit as important as any class a student takes, in regard to the maturation and development of that student.

I do not mean to take anything away from excellence in the classroom, but spending four to six hours a day doing homework and studying does not help the social and emotional development of a student. Not only does it not help, it hurts it -- plain and simple.

There must be a balance between academic and social to complete the development of the students. Athletics is one of the best ways for that to happen.

I have worked in the schools, sat on scholarship boards and been a part of high school athletics for over 35 years in Pleasanton. My wife -- who works at Foothill -- and I have sent seven kids through the Pleasanton school district, and I feel I am as qualified as any to make this statement.

Here's what athletics does for students.

One, it promotes teamwork. You learn how to work with others to achieve a common goal. It's not about wins and losses, but rather communicating and learning to have each other's back. Interpersonal communication skills have dissipated at an alarming rate.

Second, athletics teach winning and losing and how to deal with it. Life is not fair a lot of the time and it's brought out in sports. Three straight volleyball games I watched the losing teams see their seasons end.

For the seniors on those teams, it meant the end of their competitive athletic careers for many of them. All those years growing up with their friends, playing together, and now it's over. It's tough and my heart goes out those young ladies crying with their heads in their hands, but it's a learning experience.

Our kids in this generation are too often placed in a bubble, and then they are released into the real world and they are not ready emotionally. Athletics teach that even with hard work, success is not guaranteed.

The lesson I instilled in our kids -- you can only control your own effort in life; that's the only guarantee -- is taught daily in sports. At the end of the day, if you know you gave it your best, walk away with your head held high.

Finally, athletics can bring together the student body. It was refreshing to see the kids at Foothill come out and support the volleyball team. The NorCal games grew each night and it was a loud, rocking gym. The coaches from Rocklin commented to me that it was great to see and their players appreciated it as well.

Foothill signing day

Foothill honored and celebrated 10 Falcon student-athletes who signed a letter of intent to play collegiate athletics on National Letter of Intent Signing Day on Nov. 14.

The athletes were: Hope Alley (softball), University of Pittsburgh; Jonah Cooper (swimming), Ohio State; Calvin David (swimming), UC Berkeley; Ellen Ebbers (softball), Morgan State; Peyton Raun (soccer), University of Pennsylvania; Nick Skinner (swimming), TCU; Cory Steinhauer (baseball), University of Nevada at Reno; Matt Sugden (baseball), San Francisco State; Russell Sullivan (track), American University; and Sam Zevanove (baseball), University of Puget Sound.

Editor's note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. To contact Miller or submit local high school sports scores, game highlights and photographs for his weekly Pleasanton Preps column, email him at

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6 people like this
Posted by Spudly
a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Nov 20, 2018 at 11:54 am

Quote from this article

"For the seniors on those teams, it meant the end of their competitive athletic careers for many of them."

That is true but have you considered what is being done to help all the kids that could not make varsity sports to experience the statement above? I suspect those kids need a lot more help and options than the few who you are referring to. Your efforts appear to have good intentions but may not address the larger population and needs of the students.

Like this comment
Posted by Lessismore
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Nov 20, 2018 at 5:47 pm

There are many sports at both Amador & Foothill that are non-cut sports. These sports are both rewarding for the student athlete and teach many of the skills that can help make them successful later in life. As somebody who hires new college grads software engineers every year I am always disappointed with the lack of interpersonal skills and ability to work with and a team.

1 person likes this
Posted by Student at AV
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Nov 21, 2018 at 9:53 am

Did no football or basketball athletes sign a letter of intent? Or is that honored a different day?

Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2018 at 9:37 am

“As somebody who hires new college grads software engineers every year I am always disappointed with the lack of interpersonal skills and ability to work with and a team”.

This is not related to experience playing team sports. People who gravitate towards SW engineering tend to prefer working alone, and the skill set required appeals to certain personality types. It is no coincidence that high functioning autism spectrum individuals often gravitate towards software. Of course there are exceptions - but don’t expect software folks to have the interpersonal skills of sales and marketing people...

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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