The fall prep sports regular season is about to come to a close. For some players it will be the last time they participate in competitive athletics.

Senior athletes are playing their final games in gymnasiums and on fields and pitches all across the area. It can be a bittersweet time for athletes, their parents and anyone who has enjoyed watching these young people compete during the course of the season or perhaps a few years.

It’s a great accomplishment to compete in high school athletics through one’s senior year. It takes a great sense of dedication, pride and good fortune to make it all the way to the end of a senior season. Athletes spend an incredible amount of time practicing their craft and honing their skills so when the lights come on they can succeed.

It’s a big sacrifice to ask of anyone, let alone 17-year-olds.

When I played high school athletics, it was a full time job. There was no off-season. Constant training and practicing chewed up all of my time. Basketball leagues and camps that took place year round and legion baseball teams that played 10 games a week during summers were commonplace during my childhood.

In fact, I played competitive baseball all summer from the time I was 10 years old to my first semester of college. I didn’t know what having a summer vacation meant.

By no means am I complaining. I enjoyed every second of those summers, but there were things I had to give up to chase my dreams of playing sports for as long as I could.

That holds true for all of these young athletes finishing their high school careers now.

They gave up some late nights goofing off with friends or maybe they sacrificed getting involved in other school activities like student government, music or theater.

These students put in that hard work for the games they love. They did it in order to play until someone told them they couldn’t.

In reality, it’s never a person that tells us it’s time to hang it up. It’s the game into which we’ve put our hearts and souls. Eventually, the game will tell you when it’s your time.

Sooner or later we become too slow, small or weak to compete. For some that happens during Little League baseball or Pee-Wee football. For a very miniscule portion of the athletic population it doesn’t happen until after a lengthy pro career. For most, it happens right now, after a senior season.

If your athletic career is ending at the end of this season, make sure you enjoy these final few games or weeks. Take satisfaction in all you’ve accomplished. Remember the wins. Try to forget the losses, but , more importantly, remember the bus rides with your teammates, the team-bonding events and all of the fun you had.

Cherish the friends you made and the memories you created.

Long after your athletic career is over it’s those things that will truly determine whether you won or lost.

— Zach Beehler is the sports reporter at the Hermiston Herald. He can be reached at zbeehler@hermistonherald.com

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