I find myself getting nostalgic around this time every year when high school sports kick into gear.
High school athletics have been a part of my life for probably 50 years. As a little kid growing up in Pleasanton, I can remember the times my buddies and I would live for the chances to watch Amador football, basketball, soccer and wrestling matches.
Amador was the only high school in town when I was growing up, so the entire community was behind the Dons. My buddy Mitch Pereira and I would get dropped off by our parents at the football field or the gym to catch the games.
I am still close with Mitch -- another long-time Pleasanton resident -- and we still will bring up those memories, as well as recall the countless games of football or baseball we had at Kottinger Park.
Then we got to high school -- Foothill had opened by then, so there was two local high schools. It was difficult at first to have our friend group split in half between the two schools -- Mitch went to Foothill - but then we fully embraced the high school experience and enjoyed the rivalry.
The one thing we didn't understand at the time was that our high school years were going to be the best time of our lives.
Going to college certainly created life-long memories, and of course having children, watching them grow, then becoming a grandparent is the most incredible feeling I have been fortunate to experience. But high school is truly the last chance of being free from responsibility before becoming an adult. It is the last time of relative innocence.
You go to college, make new friends, and form new memories. You get out of school, get a job, and make some new friends once again, and put together a new set of memories.
But when you play sports in high school, you are going to battle with your buddies that you have been around since elementary and middle school.
The part that few realize is this will be the last time in their lives that this group of friends and teammates will all be together.
Sure, you stay friends through life and celebrate the joys of life through special events, but the high school years are the time when your friends are your entire life.
Why I write about this is to hopefully convey this message to todays group of teenagers -- "embrace each and every day of your high school experience."
The movie "Varsity Blues" seems to appear more frequently every August and September and it is, without a doubt, the best movie I have seen that captures the high school experience.
The fictional movie about a high school football team in Texas brings together everything -- good and bad -- that makes up high school life.
The main character capsulizes everything at the end of the movie, realizing that there will never be a better buddy moment than what high school provides.
I see some kids every year that seem to grasp that concept right at the end of their last game together, or upon graduation. For others, it takes longer.
The memories are real and will always be there. My friends and I are all in our 60s now, but there are times we still needle each other about a game in high school.
My go-to is that in four years at Amador, a team I was on never lost to Foothill. That still upsets some of my buddies, although I am sure my rubbing it in throws some gasoline on the fire!
I remember an Amador-Foothill alumni soccer game about 20 years ago when our Amador side had built up a comfortable halftime lead.
As we had some orange slices mixed with some pain killers at the half, we saw a group for former Foothill players leaving. When asked why they were departing, one said, "we got our butts kicked by you 20 years ago and I don't need to go through that again."
Your spouse and children will nod and pretend they enjoy hearing you recount high school glory, but no one can truly appreciate it like the buddies you went to war with each week.
Think about it. You go to school throughout the week, then go to practice after school, then have your games. On weekends, you usually are with the same group, hanging out and telling lies.
You spend more time with your friends than you do with your families.
I love that kids have the chance to build these memories. Working as a campus supervisor at a middle school in Pleasanton allows me to see these groups being formed.
Writing about high school athletics allows me to see them carry on and form more bonds. Finally, getting to know these students and seeing them go through life as they get older and have their own families allows me to see everything come full circle.
It gives me that chance to see them embrace their own memories. When I see a group of former high school athletes meet up with their friends as adults, it always puts a smile on my face as I know they get it and now live it.
I remember last year talking to some former Monte Vista football players about their win over De La Salle in the North Coast Section football championship game in 1987.
Just to hear their sheer joy in looking back at a game played over 30 years earlier and how vividly they still remember even the littlest details was validation as to the importance that time frame played in their lives.
Enjoy what this year brings -- the good and the bad -- as these days will give you memories you will always have. They will come back time and time again throughout your life and they will put a smile on your face.