I have never been very athletic. I played basketball from pee-wee into junior high. Mostly it was because I was taller than my peers early on, so basketball was a natural fit. I dabbled in football in junior high; again it was mostly about my size. I was never very good at either sport. As an adult in my mid-20s I took up running — actually it was more of a slow jog — but I came to love being outside and the feeling of accomplishment that came from completing a new distance or running a faster time.

While my experience in sports was relatively limited and I lack the natural ability, one thing was abundantly clear from my time — the key is discipline. Athletics and the training, nutrition and lifestyle choices you must make to excel, take a lot of discipline — much more than someone who hasn’t been involved in sports could ever know.

I think that’s one of the most valuable lessons I learned from my athletic endeavors — the work ethic.

That’s something everyone who has ever played a sport can understand, how much drive and desire to excel it takes to pull yourselves out of bed for the early morning practices and to make healthy choices when the unhealthy ones are easier and more convenient.

That is something worth celebrating and honoring. It’s that driving spirit, that tireless effort — supported by loving family and caring coaches — that has propelled three local teams to state championships this year. And it is that lesson of the value of hard work and the experience of having it pay off that will stay with all the athletes we honored at Thursday’s All-Texomaland Awards Banquet present by the Herald Democrat and Texoma Medical Center and sponsored by Bonham Chrysler.

Long after those athletes have left the competitive realm, opting for pickup games and community and church leagues, that lesson will still be with them. It’s one that will serve them well in life.

Athletics is one of the great ways to learn how to stick through the tough, sometimes tedious and occasionally uncomfortable work of the day-to-day in order to achieve something great. As I write this and think about the hard work of these young men and women, which has taken them so far, I’m recharged by their passion and inspired by their zeal.

And these young athletes will spread that spirit. They will be future leaders and long-term thinkers. They will be goal-setters and will be chipping away at them long after most others have fallen away from their New Year’s resolutions.

So, to the All-Texomaland honorees and all the student-athletes out there, as much as Thursday was a chance to applaud your past success, it was also about celebrating your future ones. We expect great things from you.

Jonathan Cannon is the executive editor of the Herald Democrat. Email him at jcannon@heralddemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter @JCannonHD.