The sports section has been full of high school sports lately. Traditional football rivalries, cross-country championship meets, state tournaments in volleyball, field hockey and soccer.
High school sports can be great, even if you aren't playing for a championship. Unlike the pros or big-time college sports -- where only a chosen few get to play -- millions of boys and girls play high school sports every year.
But let's say you are a kid, 9, 10 or maybe 12 years old, and you want to get in on the fun and challenge of high school sports someday. What should you be doing now to get ready to play when you are older?
Well, I've been watching high school sports for years and have talked to lots of players and coaches. If you are thinking about playing sports in high school, and maybe even reading about yourself in the sports section, you may want to follow this advice.
* Keep yourself healthy. All high school sports are tough. Try running more than three miles in less than 20 minutes like a cross-country runner. Or play 40 minutes or more of full-tilt soccer. Or four quarters of tackle football. You can't do it if you are not in good shape. So get in the habit of eating good foods, getting plenty of sleep and staying active.
* Be a good student. Most high schools have rules that if you don't have at least a "C" average, you can't play sports for the school. High school coaches do not want to waste their time with kids who are ineligible because their grades are low. Nothing messes up a team more than a star player who has to leave in the middle of the season because of failing grades. Be sure that you are a student-athlete that coaches can depend on.
* Play a bunch of sports. I know that some kids (and parents) think that the fastest way to make a team is to play one sport all the time. So they play soccer or hoops every season of the year. But what happens if you don't make the soccer team in high school? Sports such as soccer and basketball are super-competitive. Even good players get cut.
I think the best way to make sure that you make some team in high school is to play a variety of sports when you are growing up. You can concentrate on a favorite sport or two when you reach the eighth or ninth grade. By playing more sports, you will probably become a better athlete and you will give yourself more chances to make a team.
* Check out some games or practices. That's right, go to your local high school and watch what's going on. The games are fun, and sometimes free, and they are always a great way to learn. By watching the games and practices you will get some idea about what you have to work on to make the grade.
* Be a team player. Yeah, maybe you will be the big star. You know, the kid who scores all the time and whose name shows up in the headlines. It's nice to have those dreams. But most kids end up just helping the team any way they can. Every team needs players who practice hard and do the thankless jobs -- such as hustling and playing hard-nosed defense -- that make a team better. So practice now at being the kind of player who isn't just thinking about his or her own goals or the number of points he or she scores.
It just might help you make the team.
Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's Friday sports column and is the author of sports novels for kids.