Don't worry about the past because there's nothing you can do about it. Grow up one day at a time and don't worry about the future because the future is now. That was some of the advice NFL Hall-of-Famer and Washington Redskins assistant general manager Bobby Mitchell offered more than 300 high school athletes yesterday at the fifth annual Washington Post All-Met luncheon at the Washington Hilton and Towers.

"And don't worry about people getting ahead of you; avoid short cuts. You will have disappointments and some failures but don't waste time worrying about that," he said. "Please do worry about having courage to fight off peer pressure, about cleanliness and about efficiency. The most important quality in all of you is having independence of thought."

Mitchell, who played with the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins, also told the athletes to learn to accept imperfections and to never cease trying to better themselves.

"No one can stop you if you have a plan. Build a reputation and profit from your mistakes because you are going to make some," he said. "Use common sense."

Athletes from schools in Washington, Maryland and Virginia were presented certificates and jackets for their achievements in 27 varsity sports. Awards also were presented to 24 coaches of the year.

Among the most notable honorees were four-time All-Met tennis player Andy Mathis of Whitman; Carroll's Lawrence Moten, the only area athlete to be named first team All-Met in football and basketball both his junior and senior years; Robinson's Meghan McCarthy, selected in cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track; and Wootton volleyball star Barbara Stross, the third sister to he honored.

Navy Lt. Doug Wojcik accepted the All-Met Distinguished Achievement Award for former teammate David Robinson, who could not attend.

Mitchell concluded his speech by asking the honorees to "do the right thing.

"The cost of going the wrong way is too high," he said. " . . . Protect your character at all times and your reputation will take care of itself. You know what to do when you win, most of you don't know what to do when you lose. That's normal, just stay cool.

"And remember, you are no better than anyone else until you do something to prove it."