Bucky Mieras, activities director and baseball coach at Orono High School, still exchanges Christmas cards with his coach back in Southern Indiana. Youth athletics is more than simply the sport; it’s about the relationships, friendships and experiences created.
“I tell my students that when I go back to visit old friends and teammates in my home state of Indiana, it’s the fun things we did together that we remember, not the wins and losses," explains Mieras, who grew up in baseball, football, soccer and wrestling. "It’s the experiences and friendships we treasure. I was really fortunate to have had fantastic coaches and encouraging parents.”
Today, Mieras tries to do the same for his students and athletes at Orono. Working with kids at the middle and high school levels has allowed him to see the pressure and stress kids undergo with academics and athletics. “The stakes are higher for kids today," he said. "There are a lot of misconceptions that you need to be more specialized. I tell kids not to spread themselves too thin. Do what you want to do, and do it well.”
Mieras' concern with kids (and their parents) identifying themselves with a single sport is one reason he brought PCA to his school. With PCA's help, Orono has conducted “Why Do We Play?” classes and training seminars for coaches, athletes and parents to help address problematic issues -- such as conflict among coaches, parents and officials -- that often start before high school.
Orono was looking for a way to create a common language for kids, parents, and coaches at all levels of play, starting with the earliest athletes. "I knew Orono’s high school athletic program would benefit down the line if we got our youth groups more involved with PCA’s model,” says Mieras. “PCA trainers also bring more credibility and cooperation into our youth programs. We have better opportunities to change negative behaviors and build positive behaviors. People make mistakes, and mistakes will continue to happen; it’s how we handle those mistakes that matter. At the end of the day, it’s just a game.”
PCA's focus on character-education through sports also helps athletes when it comes to college admissions. “When I receive phone calls from college admissions officers, the first questions they ask are 'Is he coachable? How does she treat teachers, coaches and teammates? What is his/her character?' Colleges don’t want anybody who needs to be babysat. They’re impressed when they hear we have character-based programming in place. It really does support the mission of Better Athletes, Better People."
His goal for the Orono program, while simple, is not always easy. “Our goal is to try to get a little better every day; our coaches, kids and parents are working really hard. We’ll take our time.”
In addition to the thought and work Mieras pours into his position, he also enjoys his job as activities director. “I love watching the events! Games have always been a part of my life. And I’ve made great relationships with fantastic coaches.”
He also enjoys bringing his third-grade daughter and second-grade son to games. “They love the excitement at the high school level. They ask me questions about what’s happening, and we discuss the game together. It’s a great learning forum for my own kids. I enjoy sitting back and watching it all.”
Great job, Bucky, and thank you for your dedication to Orono’s athletes.